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Keeping our staff and students safe in school

        Rob Monson

As the Executive Director of the School Administrators of South Dakota, I am connected with every public-school district in South Dakota as well as a handful of private schools. I am here to tell you that they are all doing the absolute best they can to keep the students and staff members safe in their schools.

I can also tell you they are stressing on many levels.

The superintendents, and in some cases the principals, are the ones who are helping to track down the close-contact tracing when a positive case gets reported to them. They are making these calls to parents and guardians during the school day, in the evenings, and in a lot of instances on the weekends. They are in contact with the Department of Health as soon as they get notice of a case that is brought to their attention.

Do you all remember 5 or 6 months ago when as parents you, or we, were all wanting nothing more than for our students to be back in school? We wanted things to be back to normal. Well, here we are. I will tell you that your school board, administrators, teachers and support staff are doing everything they can to do just that.

I have done a few media interviews and the analogy I have used is that we needed to get this airplane into the air. Once we had it there, we knew we would need to fix the engine, repair a wing, but at least we were flying. Your school is trying to do everything they can to keep the airplane in the air at whatever “level” they can. (Masks, in-person, masks in passing, hybrid with some online and some in person, etcetera.)

I am not making this political, so please do not attack the guy who is hearing from the people working in these schools. If wearing a mask for the day, or part of the day will help to keep the airplane in the air, isn’t it worth a try? If taking a “breather” for a day helps the school to come back full time in a day or two or next week, isn’t it worth a try?

Keeping the teachers and support staff healthy and in the schools is paramount right now. I had a conversation earlier this week with a superintendent from one of the AA schools who told me they were 9 subs short in the high school on Monday and 5 short in the elementary. I asked how they were able to have school with that many vacancies. I was told that the teachers covered for each other that day and they got through the day, but that could not be sustained for very long. This is the reality many can and will be facing and the reason we need to do all we can to keep everyone safe. It is going to be the teachers and support staff shortages that will eventually force the change in delivery. I am sure many of you have heard of the adjustments that have had to be made in Lemmon, Burke, Selby, Pierre, and various other schools due to teachers becoming a positive case and the district not having enough substitutes. In some cases, it is to just let things settle down a little to get on top of it.

Again, this is not a political post, this is a plea.

No one, and I mean NO ONE wants to stay in school more than the educators! This is what we do. We missed the students, we missed the energy, we missed activities, and we missed doing OUR JOBS in front of students! We all want to keep them IN THE SCHOOLS!

The alternative is one that no one wants to think about. Just think back to Friday March 13, 2020. That is the day we went to online learning at home. Let us do all we can TOGETHER so we do not have to go back to March 13.

If you get a chance, just throw a “Thank You” to an educator in passing, they will appreciate it.

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