BISMARCK — The vast majority of K-12 parents, staff and community members in North Dakota's largest school district support sending children back to school for in-person instruction "without a doubt" or "with precautions" in the fall, according to districtwide survey results released Tuesday, July 21.

Bismarck Public Schools received more than 13,700 responses from the community and of the more than 12,000 parents surveyed, about 89% said they are comfortable sending their child back to school.

The bulk of the 1,600 staff members surveyed said they are comfortable returning to work with precautions, according to the survey.

In addition to the survey results, the school district also announced it will offer full-time, yearlong distance learning for K-12 parents who are interested. Parents can transfer their child into full-time distance learning prior to the school year beginning, and students must remain in distance learning for nine weeks or the end of a grading period.

Burleigh County has seen an increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the past few weeks and had the highest number of active cases in the state as of Tuesday with 174. The North Dakota Department of Health on Wednesday, July 22, announced a single-day record of 160 new cases of COVID-19.

The Bismarck Public Schools survey states that masks are recommended, not required, and can be worn at any time.

Almost 45% of parents said their child will not be using district transportation, which includes busing. About 25% said their child will use district transportation.

The response from elementary school parents was split about having in-person instruction two days each week and three days of distance learning or having in-person half-days every day, in which instruction would alternate "between face-to-face instruction and distance learning in the morning and afternoon."

"Despite taking every reasonable precaution, there is no guarantee that our schools will be without risk as it relates to COVID-19 or any other virus," the survey states.

The district still plans to gather additional feedback from parents and staff, so it has made no final decisions, according to the Bismarck Public Schools website.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at mgriffith@forumcomm.com.