NDUS provides guidance to students over holiday break: Flexibility, safety emphasized


The following news release is from the North Dakota University System:

As the Thanksgiving holiday break approaches, North Dakota University System is working in cooperation with the North Dakota Department of Health to increase student testing of COVID-19. NDUS is asking students to minimize their activities prior to leaving campus if they plan to visit loved ones outside of their normal social circle. If students choose to leave campus, they are encouraged to get a test prior to leaving campus and then once again when they return. While the additional testing may increase the number of reported  positive COVID cases, the goal of these efforts is to identify positive cases, thus minimizing the risk of spread to families and communities.

“Identifying these positive COVID cases is a good thing, as these results will increase our knowledge campus members who are positive, and in finding these positives and isolating them, we will decrease the spread of the disease,” said NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott. “Our ultimate goal is to keep our families and communities as safe as possible. Finding the positive COVID cases is a way to keep our campuses open and our communities as safe as possible.”

Students may be at lower risk when they are on campus, as opposed to elsewhere, due to the high mask use and social distancing on campus. Many campuses encourage students to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by staying on campus during the Thanksgiving holiday break and are offering flexibility with class delivery methods as the semester continues.

NDUS campuses and area communities will have testing events before and after the Thanksgiving holiday break, and students are encouraged to participate in the available testing. Students are also encouraged to continue being diligent about practicing mitigation strategies which include masks, social distancing, hand hygiene and other practices. Several institutions are planning special events and observances for students who choose to stay on campus during the holiday break. Students should check with their individual campuses for special arrangements and activities that may be planned during the holiday break. 

In line with the state mandate issued on Friday, NDUS is responding. Our campuses are reviewing their pandemic plans and continuing to ask students to create a wellness environment on campus through wearing masks, maintaining appropriate physical distance and appropriate hygiene measures. The COVID cases and situation remains dynamic and NDUS institutions will adjust course as necessary to ensure the health and wellbeing needs of students are met. Here is a current summation of the plans on each NDUS campus:

Bismarck State College will continue offering both on campus and online classes after Thanksgiving. BSC is encouraging students to limit their travel and avoid large gatherings. Students should leverage the weekly testing available on campus and be diligent about practicing multilevel mitigation procedures which include masks, social distancing, hand hygiene and other practices.

Dakota College at Bottineau is providing students an option to learn remotely after the Thanksgiving break through the end of the semester. Students will still be able to attend classes in person on campus if they choose. This decision was reached after understanding there could be a spike in COVID cases across the college due to community spread from family gatherings and other social events that typically occur during Thanksgiving break and the continuing rise of COVID cases in the state and country. In addition, DCB wants to allow Canadian students an opportunity to spend more time with families during the holiday season.

Dickinson State University, after considering the state’s executive orders and the current level of community spread in Stark County, the DSU President’s Cabinet voted to implement its plan for “Red Status: High Community Spread.” In red status, DSU will temporarily shift to primarily remote campus operations for the final three weeks of the fall semester. The majority of classes will pivot to remote delivery beginning Monday, Nov. 23. The University plans to return to in-person operations for the spring semester beginning Jan. 11. 

Lake Region State College is encouraging residence hall students who leave for Thanksgiving break to access their courses using technology and not return to the residence halls until move in day for spring semester. The faculty have agreed to allow all students in lecture-based courses (including the taking of finals) to attend class virtually (in real time) using the technology installed in each classroom.  Students in some CTE programs may not be afforded this option as they may need to finish clinical, shop, and/or practical skill demonstrations or labs.  Faculty in those programs will advise their students regarding options. All residence hall students who must return or that choose to return to the halls after Thanksgiving and attend instruction face to face, will be required to test on Thursday, December 3, and quarantine and/or isolate as required by the LRSC COVID-19 Preparedness and Response protocol.

Mayville State University students will be given the flexibility to determine whether they wish to attend classes in person on campus or to participate online for the remainder of the fall semester. This new option, Comets Choose, will begin Monday, Nov. 30. We recognize the seriousness of the current COVID-19 situation in the state and in our communities, and the decision to offer flexibility for students supports the mitigation efforts of the greater community by reducing the population density in classrooms and on campus. Further, we recognize that some students will travel a distance for the Thanksgiving break. This will provide them the flexibility to stay in place in their home communities through the Christmas break, if preferred by the student. This also reduces the potential opportunity to bring the virus back to Traill County during the current particularly difficult time of the pandemic.

Minot State University will provide students the option to complete the last two weeks (and finals week) at a distance following Thanksgiving. Students choosing the distance option to complete the semester will still attend classes at their regularly scheduled times using appropriate technology. MSU is encouraging students to stay in Minot over the Thanksgiving break and is providing additional services for those remaining on campus. Students who do leave the Minot area for Thanksgiving and then return to MSU for the end of the semester are strongly advised to get tested for COVID before traveling and then get tested immediately upon returning to campus.

North Dakota State College of Science will continue current instruction formats (face-to-face, online and hybrid) after Thanksgiving through the end of the semester. Through various messages, NDSCS is encouraging the College community (students and employees) to help minimize the risk and spread of COVID-19 through personal prevention practices. These messages emphasize the importance of avoiding large gatherings, being tested before and after the holiday, and avoiding travel.

North Dakota State University will continue offering the Hyflex instructional model after Thanksgiving, through the end of the semester. NDSU is urging students not to return home for Thanksgiving break, citing the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak. Residence halls will remain open over the break at no added cost to students. Dining options will also continue to be available. Students planning to remain on campus must notify Residence Life. For students still planning to leave campus, the university is asking that they be tested before leaving Fargo and after they return to the campus.

University of North Dakota will continue in hybrid mode (offering both on campus and online classes) after Thanksgiving. It is best to avoid travel and large gatherings, and be safe by staying in Grand Forks for Thanksgiving break. If students travel, plan to stay home and interact only with the people you live with for 14 days before you travel. Get tested for COVID-19 approximately three to four days before you travel.

Valley City State University will continue offering face-to-face, synchronous, and online classes after Thanksgiving. Students who are currently taking face-to-face courses have the option to travel home and finish the semester via synchronous delivery. Students are encouraged to avoid large events and limit activities two weeks prior to Thanksgiving and to take advantage of weekly testing available, in cooperation with city/county health, the week before and the week after Thanksgiving. Students are asked to remain diligent with the Viking Safety protocols including continued mask use, social distancing, and frequent hand washing.

Williston State College will continue fall semester classes as scheduled.  WSC encourages all students, faculty, and staff to take advantage of the COVID-19 testing events before traveling home for the holiday, and after returning to campus following the Thanksgiving Holiday. Since the holiday season typically means students, faculty, and staff travel to spend time with family and friends, remember that when you travel, you are at greater risk to become infected with COVID-19 and to transmit COVID-19 to others.  It is important to protect yourself and others with proper masking, social distancing, consistent hand washing/hygiene, and an awareness of where you are, the size of group you are in, and who is around you.  Keeping yourselves and others safe during the COVID-19 pandemic is a responsibility we all share.