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SFSD gives ‘Return to Learning’ update, clarifies mask expectations

Published: Jul. 27, 2020 at 8:08 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -Students in the Sioux Falls School District return to class one month from today. And the Sioux Falls School District is continuing to discuss what the school year will look like. The Sioux Falls School Board met Monday, July, 27th for their third discussion on the district’s ‘Return To Learning’ plan.

15,000 parents have responded to the Sioux Falls School District’s ‘Return to Learning’ parent survey. Nearly 71 percent say they plan on their kids returning to school. Some are still unsure, so board members discussed the “Virtual Academy” in greater detail.

15,000 parents have responded to the Sioux Falls School District's ‘Return to Learning' parent survey.
15,000 parents have responded to the Sioux Falls School District's ‘Return to Learning' parent survey.(KSFY)

“It’s not the same as the remote learning where there’s a teacher that will come on and give that virtual lesson. But it’s really a platform that will provide all the educational needs and materials there and then a staff member that will help to guide them through some of those processes if they have questions,” said Asst. Superintendent Jamie Nold.

Parents will need to be an active participant in their child's education if they choose this option. Currently only a handful of families are signed up. The deadline is August 3rd.

For those who will be sending their students back to campus, 60 percent of parents say their student plans to wear a face-covering at school. Superintendent Jane Stavem clarified that there is an expectation that all students and staff will wear face coverings at school, even though it is not mandated/required.

“We are going to remind, we are going to offer them a mask, we are going to ask them to have an extra maybe in their locker or in their desk. We’re going to then ask a parent to help us partner in that,” said Stavem.

Stavem says that the subject of masks has become a “charged issue.”

“Where people feel like it may be an infringement on their right to make a personal choice. We want to be respectful of that, but we also have to have a little different mindset in a school setting because it’s not just about your choice, but the choices that we are making for other people,” said Stavem.

However, she says it's important the district does not deny anyone access to a public education.

“We are not going to exclude people, but we are going to do everything that we can to have everybody following our guidelines for safe and healthy habits,” said Stavem.

The district is asking that parents help prepare their kids for a new normal.

“About washing your hands and about, you know that your classroom is going to be a different classroom this year and it might look different than your classroom did from last year. And practicing wearing a mask,” said Stavem.

The school board meeting drew quite a large crowd of parents and some teachers who held up signs in support of masks being required in schools.

The school board meeting drew quite a large crowd of parents and some teachers who held up signs in support of masks being required in schools.
The school board meeting drew quite a large crowd of parents and some teachers who held up signs in support of masks being required in schools.(KSFY)

“I’m worried about bringing the virus home to my family, my parents, my grandmother. I feel like I won’t be able to be anywhere near them during the school year,” said Lincoln High School Teacher Heather Coombs.

“And I’m also worried about spreading it to my students who might have some health issues might have some economic things that doesn’t provide them with health insurance. I’m just worried about our whole community.”

The school board meeting drew quite a large crowd of parents and some teachers who held up signs in support of masks being required in schools.
The school board meeting drew quite a large crowd of parents and some teachers who held up signs in support of masks being required in schools.(KSFY)

Sandy McKeown is the parent of an educator. She’d like to hear more about what the district plans to do if students or teachers get COVID-19.

“Right now, South Dakota doesn’t have a sufficient number of substitute teachers to take over when regular teachers get sick. And it’s just a given that people are going to get sick. And so if we don’t have a plan in place for what happens, then our students are going to be in the same boat they were in back in the spring,” said McKeown.

More guidelines on face coverings and other school updates will be included in a “parent handbook.” School district members say the handbook should go out to parents by Friday. However, they say this is a fluid situation, so details could still change.

Parents and staff are also asked to take the ‘Return To Learning Survey’ if they have not already done so.

Copyright 2020 Dakota News Now. All rights reserved.

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