Teacher creates online petition opposing back-to-school plan

With only about five weeks left before school begins in Sioux Falls, some teachers are voicing their concerns about returning to in-person learning.
Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 10:54 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -The countdown is on to the start of the fall semester. With only about five weeks left before school begins in Sioux Falls, some teachers are voicing their concerns about returning to in-person learning. One Sioux Falls teacher has even started a petition. 

Nick Jackson is a fifth-grade teacher at Garfield Elementary. He created the petition six days ago in hopes of starting a conversation. While he'd love to see his students in person, he thinks the number of COVID cases are too high for everyone to return to school. 

When teachers and students do return to school, he wants to make sure they return safely.

“The biggest concern is it’s a life and death situation. Feeling like schools are kind of being treated as an experiment right now where we’re not sure what’s going to happen, but let’s try these things out and I’m not okay with that,” said Jackson. 

Jackson started a chang.org petition, arguing there should be remote learning until there aren’t any new COVID cases for 14 straight days in Sioux Falls.

He understands this is a big ask. However, he believes it's important

“Coming as close as we can to ensuring that there won’t be the coronavirus within our walls because when there is, it’s going to spread and we’ll be back at square one,” said Jackson.

He would also like to see masks mandated.

“We’re not talking just schools here, we’re talking community-wide,” said Jackson. 

Jackson says it's going to take the effort of everyone to help lower COVID cases, so everyone can return to school safely. So far the petition has over 3,000 signatures.

Some of those from community members, other teachers, like Sixth Grade Whittier Teacher Kim Sonnichsen-Skatvold.

“You know it would be awesome to go and meet my students, but at the same time we’re living in a new normal right now, the only thing predictable is unpredictability in a way,” said Sonnichsen-Skatvold.

“And going back to start school, being there every day for nine hours a day, eight hours a day, and then potentially being gone again. That I think is just hard.”

She also believes it will be difficult to social distance in class.

“I mean our classrooms already are small and this year, especially before the new high school opens and the new middle school opens,” said Sonnichsen-Skatvold.

When everyone does return to the classroom she’d also like to see masks required.

“You know they follow other dress code rules of, you know you can’t have a hood up in class or you can’t wear these things and they are able to do it,” said Sonnichsen-Skatvold.

Dakota News Now reached out to the Sioux Falls School District about this petition and gave us this statement: 

“The Sioux Falls School District continues to seek feedback from our community and staff as we prepare for the 2020-21 school year. Last week, a survey was sent to all staff members and earlier this week, a similar survey was sent to our families. We have received meaningful feedback from both surveys.

These surveys provide valuable data and help us know where we need to provide additional information or clarification as well as continue to make plans for students and staff to return this fall. The information gathered from the surveys also helps us make sure the detailed guidance we are finalizing is clear and answers the questions people have about what school will look like going forward.

We encourage any of our staff members and families who have not yet taken the survey to please do such as we value all input from our stakeholders.”

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