Dickinson Public Schools' online learning planning was approved by the state last Friday.

All school districts in North Dakota were required to submit a district distance learning plan for approval by Gov. Doug Burgum and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler by Friday, March 27.

The district's plan includes the use of online platforms Seesaw for K-2 students and Google Classroom for students in grades 3-12.

Melanie Kathrein, director of curriculum and professional development for the district, described both programs.

"In (Seesaw), teachers can post videos, assignments and lessons," she said. "Kids can interact with it in multiple ways, which is what’s really exciting at that lower-level elementary because they can demonstrate their learning using a variety of methods, such as through video, they can draw, they can take a picture of something they created and post it; in addition, create the portfolio of their work that parents have access to."

Google Classroom is similar.

"Teachers can post lessons, assignments, they can post videos and do even live sessions with students," Kathrein said. "Students in turn can post assignments. They can also collaborate with other students in that platform. It’s very flexible and used in different ways depending on the content area.”

She said most students are familiar with Google Classroom, and while Seesaw was only used in some classrooms, it's easy to use, and instructional materials were given to students or parents, depending on the grade level.

Superintendent Shon Hocker said students will not automatically pass their online classes, and grades will still be given.

"We’ll be grading their progress and mastery of essentials and that will get placed into PowerSchool … We can’t mess at the secondary level with GPAs and Carnegie units that high school requires," he said. "There’s a lot riding on GPAs. There’s a lot riding on courses that actually have a letter grade rather than just a pass/fail. There are scholarships in North Dakota that are based on those, and we don’t want to put any student in jeopardy, so we’re going to try to keep things as status quo as possible."

In preparation for the school closure, the district surveyed its students' families to determine if they had a device and internet access.

The school district is working with a local internet provider to offer internet access to all district families that do not have it, and it will distribute a Chromebook or iPad to elementary families who do not have a device in their home. All students in grades 4-12 have a school-issued device already.

Those who do not wish to have access will continue to be provided with paper packets.

Teachers are expected to hold office hours for students, provide feedback daily, upload at least one video per day and monitor student engagement and attendance.

"We’ve got teachers who can open up a virtual class link to themselves through Zoom and they can announce to their whole class, 'If you need me, I’m available during these two hours; my Zoom meeting will be open.' At any time, they can get on and they can actually interact kind of like Facetime," Hocker said.