Make up days

Griggs County Central School Families:

I hope that everyone is staying safe and warm this week. The following letter explains weather decisions, make-up school days, and the virtual learning decision making process. I think the best way to address those topics is by sharing common questions that I get from stakeholders in the school and community and providing the answers that I have currently.

Question: Where are GCC weather announcements posted?

Answer: Weather announcements are sent out through the Instant Alert system and posted on the school website, Facebook page, and Valley News Live website. If you have not received instant alerts from previous weather announcements, call the school office to try and get on that list. If there is nothing sent out over instant alert, and nothing posted on the website/social media, then school is planned as normally scheduled.

Question: How are decisions made for weather related delays or cancellations?

Answer: Superintendent consultation with the transportation director, state highway patrol, sheriff’s department, school board, and neighboring superintendents. The North Dakota Roads report, local weather forecasts, and other weather forecasting resources are used to help decide. These decisions are not easy to make, and I understand how the decision inconveniences people either way it goes.

Question: When would the next couple storm days be made up?

Answer: The Griggs County Central School Board decided to add a make-up school day on Wednesday, December 21 because of the number of missed days in the first semester. This addition will help the district add a day back into the first semester and provide a little more flexibility in the spring for additional make-up days needed. Missed school days on Wednesday (12/14) and Thursday (12/15) will be made up with in-person school days on Wednesday, December 21 and Monday, February 20. The next cancelled school day is scheduled to be made up on Monday, April 10.

Question: Other schools are doing virtual learning? Can we do that?

Answer: Many other schools in the area are doing virtual learning this week. Virtual learning is not an option that is being considered at GCC. We have stakeholder feedback, along with state and local data, that strongly indicates that virtual learning was an ineffective model academically and that it was a detriment to students socially, emotionally, and physically. Beyond that, we must consider our ability to provide an equal education to all students in the Griggs County Central School District. That obviously means internet access and internet speed, but other considerations include full-day availability to an individual device, proper accommodations being met according for legal documents like IEPs and 504s, equal access to licensed teachers and support staff, and OT/PT, Speech, and counseling services availability, among many other equal access concerns.

We learned from the government shutdowns in the spring of 2020 that virtual learning does not provide an adequate education for all K-12 students. GCC has worked to resolve many of the issues with virtual learning, but challenging problems will still be present in a one-day virtual learning plan to cover a poor weather day. I understand that some schools in North Dakota are accepting the flaws and pushing forward with virtual learning plans anyway.

Currently, it does not appear that replacing a day of in-person learning with a day of virtual learning is doing what is best for Griggs County Central students, families, and staff. There are only 172 in-person school days for instruction this year. That is around 47% of the calendar year that students are in school. I do not believe that should be reduced further and I support the effort to make-up days in-person rather than attempting virtual learning and putting more tasks on our school families at home. Ultimately, we value what the school district can provide students in-person and we feel that the district can do a lot for them when they are here at school.

The weather will let up at some point and I hope for the best for our school families this week.

Derek Simonsen


Griggs County Central