For the rest of September, Stanley County Schools has suspended in-person instruction and extra-curricular activities due to COVID-19, Superintendent Daniel Hoey said.

“COVID has made its arrival in the Stanley County School District,” Hoey told the Capital Journal, “both in a positive test and in the practice of quarantining. We chose to move to a distance learning format yesterday (Sunday).”

Hoey went on to say that, since Stanley County is such a small school district, giving numbers of staff or students, or their classes or grades, would make it too simple for the community to figure out details that would be best left personal.

Also because of its own small size, and the country school’s close-knit community, “the Cheyenne School is conducting regular attendance and regular school. They have not been impacted,” Hoey said.

The website announcement also stated, “During distance learning, all athletic and other extra-curricular activities will be suspended. Plans are for extra-curricular activities to resume Thursday, Oct. 2. Homecoming 2020 will be pushed back one week to October 5-9.” Hoey later added to the Capital Journal, “These are suspended, not canceled; we hopefully will be able to do rescheduling.”

“We have a finite number of substitute teachers,” Hoey said. “When you have a larger need than what can be attended to, you have to adjust. This will be the Achilles Heel for most school districts in South Dakota. Looking at Sioux Falls and at other smaller schools such as our own, they do not have an endless amount of substitutes.”

“At the beginning of our school year, we adjusted our calendar,” Hoey said, referring to making the first two Wednesdays in-service staff days rather than in-person class days. “The two professional adjustment days were designed for this exact occurrence. We have been preparing for — not as in ‘if’ but — ‘when’ we would be impacted by COVID.” He added, if everything still works for the best, the school will be done with full-time distance learning on Sept. 30 and it will return to a somewhat normal fashion on Thursday, Oct. 1. “We tried to be, as much as we could be, proactive rather than reactive.”

“Mirroring Superintendent Kelly Glodt (Pierre School District), I believe people must bear personal responsibility to their own health and to the health of those around us. Our responsibility does not reside within just the public and private schools,” Hoey said.

“Due to staff exposure and subsequent quarantining, all classes junior kindergarten through 12th grade at Stanley County in Fort Pierre will be transitioning to distance learning,” read the website announcement written by Hoey. “School will continue as normal for Cheyenne School. There will be no school on Monday, Sept. 21. Distance Learning will begin Tuesday, Sept. 22 and continue through Wednesday, Sept. 30. Traditional classes will resume Thursday, Oct. 1.”

The website continued, “Students in grades 3-12 must have a device for Google Classroom and other distance learning activities.” It details how parents could be sure their students had or could get their textbooks, iPads, and Chromebooks. “Expect communications from your child’s classroom teachers. Blessings, Daniel Hoey, superintendent.”

The Stanley County GOLD program (Great Opportunities for Learning & Development) is directed by Kristie Maher. An after-school community children’s program in Fort Pierre, this is GOLD’s second year of operation. “We have a few over 50 kids every day, with 66 enrolled. At this point, when the school closes, we close,” Maher said, adding this will also be closed through the end of September.

She said that GOLD’s lone full-time staff member is her, and the other 15 staff members range from four to 30 hours per week. “Some are substitutes; there’s a wide range in there.”

“We have planning works and reporting to do. And we have training and on-site meetings. We will be putting together a plan in case the school’s virtual learning has to continue, so we can serve some students during these times,” Maher said. “Certainly we are concerned for the safety of our kids, and we support the school. If we stayed open, it would be defeating the purpose of this hard thing that the school had to do.”

“During the school year, we basically offer two hours on school days and all day on Fridays. During the summer, we tried some virtual learning, with some success. We did smaller groups, and did outdoor programs on site, and some good Zoom items. We have, and are continuing to put together, the best plans we can come up with,” Maher added.

As of Monday, the South Dakota Department of Health lists seven active COVID-19 infections for all of Stanley County. This is the highest number the county has experienced.

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