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School reopening measures begun

Tables and chairs are blocked off from use in the Student Success Center at Western Dakota Technical College. Many tables and chairs throughout the campus have been removed, blocked off, are spaced at least 6 feet apart from each other. Photo by Travis Dewes

Re-opening measures have begun formation to be implemented during the fall semester of 2020 for local education institutions. Meade and Douglas school districts along with Western Dakota Technical College and South Dakota School of Mines have plans in place to provide a safe environment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Meade County School’s faculty will be reporting to in-service from August 31 – September 3 and classes will begin on September 8.
  • Douglas will be returning to school August 31.
  • Western Dakota Technical College will be beginning classes August 24.

Faculty will be returning to campus at South Dakota School of Mines on August 17 and classes will begin August 19.

Meade School District’s plan has a colored three phase system to determine how classes will proceed. Phase 1 (green) is described as “low to moderate risk, normal face-to-face instruction, limited confirmed cases in school and declining and/or flat confirmed cases in city, county, and surround area.”

Phase 2 (orange) is described as a more elevated risk that is met with limited student contact. Finally, Phase 3 (red) is high risk and results in completely distance learning for the district.

Meade County School District lists materials that have been obtained to have a safe environment and they include 8,000 disposable masks, 200 N-95 masks, and 50 plastic face shields. The district also acquired 50 touchless hand sanitizer dispensers and 300 regular sanitizer dispensers to be filled with 48 gallons of Lite and Foamy sanitizer. They will also be using 16 fogging sanitizers and will train the correct staff on how to use them effectively.

Douglas School District will be performing active screening of students and staff, advising high-risk students and staff to stay home after consulting a doctor, advising students to stay home for five days if a family member has contracted the virus, and take active measures to social distance as much as possible while in classrooms.

Douglas School District says that it is prepared to practice distance learning if it is deemed necessary.

A sign outlining the guidelines that Western Dakota Technical College has put in place for all staff, students, and visitors. A staff member is positioned in the area to check temperature and make sure that a mask is worn. Photo by Travis Dewes

“The intent of the Douglass school system is to continue to operate schools as long as we have sufficient staff to do so,” said the district in their Public Health Condition Response. “In the event that insufficient staff members are available to serve the students in a safe and orderly environment, or if federal, state or local authorities advise or mandate such, then schools will be closed.”

Western Dakota Technical College will be enforcing a strict face mask requirement and social distancing measures along with shutting down dinning services for the fall semester. Some courses will be in hybrid presentation with online and in person and some classes will be strictly online. WDT’s Responsible Restart Plan for Fall 2020 states that “while programs and activities will look different, we are committed to providing excellent student engagement experience for our students.”

South Dakota School of Mines is strongly recommending that staff and students wear a face covering for the semester and will be providing staff with a single cloth mask. Rigorous cleaning procedures is outlined in Rockers Return to Campus Plan. There will also be extremely limited space in common areas of the university including laboratory spaces.

“The implementation of guidance provided will depend upon routine availability of COVID-19 clinical screening, access to health status evaluations for individuals, and the availability of public health measures including timely case contact tracing,” said the Rockers Return to Campus Plan. “The measures recommended will need to be in context with the prevalence of active and recovered COVID-19 affected individuals in the broader geographic region and comprehensive community-specific outpatient and inpatient clinical diagnostic and treatment services.”

The Rapid City Area School’s (RCAS) Board of Education will take formal action on a re-opening plan in late July or Early August.

The described re-opening procedures are preceded by a threat from the Trump Administration to threat funding for schools that fail to fully open in the fall.

“School cannot start like “normal” and those who advocate such a message put the health and safety of students, educators and their loved ones at risk,” said Sandra Waltman, a member of the South Dakota Education Association, in an official statement to President Trump’s threat. “We must acknowledge that there is a new normal and schools must be able to have flexible plans that are based on the facts, science and data, not politics and rhetoric.”


(Contact Travis at travisldewes@gmail.com)

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