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Noem: South Dakota schools should reopen

Published: Jul. 28, 2020 at 10:35 AM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Many families and teachers still have questions when it comes to returning to school this fall. Governor Kristi Noem was in Sioux Falls Tuesday to discuss back-to-school planning statewide.

Governor Noem says she is basing her decisions on hard facts and data.

“The science is very clear on schools, our schools should be open,” said Gov. Noem.

"Today my focus is that schools need to create strong plans to provide each person the opportunity to have in-person instruction that works for each family."

According to Noem: the consequences of students not being in school are far greater than the health risks of dealing with COVID.

“We can not sacrifice the educational, physical, emotional and social well being of our kids,” said Gov. Noem.

"We know that children, although they are not immune to the virus typically don't get a serious illness from the virus. They almost never transmit the disease to someone else."

Noem says not going back to school also impacts the most vulnerable students.

“Not all kids are in safe home environments. For some students, school is the safest and the most predictable place that they can spend their time,” said Gov. Noem.

According to Noem, the state has already seen negative impacts on kids’ education because of school closures in the spring.

“As good and as committed as those teachers are, they couldn’t reach everyone. Not every student participated in online learning. As many as 30 percent did not participate in some circumstances,” said Gov. Noem.

When it comes to masks, the governor has said she will not mandate masks in the state and that goes for schools, too.

“I think the common sense of how kids handle masks and the reality of them keeping them on for 7 to 8 hours a day is going to be a challenge in how they learn,” said Gov. Noem.

Some teachers have expressed concerns about this. Jessica Peterson, a fifth-grade teacher at John Harris Elementary has put masks on her students’ school supply list.

“I can’t mandate it, but I can ask that you have one here for just in case. We’re going to be in the hallway, there’s going to be other students in the hallways. There’s just going to be times where a mask is very important,” said Peterson.

Noem says the most effective thing kids can do is wash their hands throughout the day.

Governor Noem says she is encouraging schools to not set thresholds for a certain amount of cases needed to call off school. Because she believes administrators would be calling off school all the time.

Noem also says that at this point it is unlikely that in the future she would ask schools to close state-wide again.

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem says she will push for schools to stay open this fall but is disparaging any requirements for children to wear masks in classrooms.

Parents and school boards are cautiously weighing the risks and benefits of schools reopening.

The Republican governor is emphasizing the educational and social upside of children going to school. She points to research that COVID-19 poses less of a threat to children.

Noem detailed her thoughts on South Dakota’s back-to-school plans in a media briefing Tuesday morning in Sioux Falls. You can watch the full briefing below.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.