The 2020-21 academic year will start in-person for the Stanley County School District on Aug. 26. Staying clear of the word ‘mandate,’ school board members voted unanimously to “strongly recommend and encourage” the wearing of face coverings.

This was at the end of a special board meeting that took place via telephone on Friday, July 31. This was called from an earlier special board meeting on July 28. The telephone meeting was open to the public, and though technical difficulties ensued, most of the discussion points were reiterated for the sake of the listeners.

The district’s school calendar has been adjusted. The opening day for classes is delayed to Wednesday, Aug. 26. Student classes will continue Thursday, Aug. 27. Stanley County School District operates on a four-day school week, so there will be no school on Friday.

Student classes will resume Wednesday, Sept 2, and Thursday, Sept. 3. Regular in-person student classes will adhere to the pre-set calendar starting Tuesday, Sept. 8.

The other days — Aug. 24-25, Aug. 31, and Sept. 1-2 — are reassigned to teacher in-service days for “staff development — software learning for distance learning.”

Of the two opposing options of traditional learning or distance learning, board members chose in-person classes. Internet learning is still available for those families registering to do so. The full details will be posted on the district’s e-campus site and its webpage no later than Monday, Aug. 3. For more information, parents and guardians are encouraged to talk with Superintendent Daniel Hoey by phone or stopping in at the school.

Different board members mentioned that contacts from parents were not in support of mandating masks, but staff members raised the concern for the wearing of masks.

Under the board’s “strongly recommending and encouraging face coverings by students and staff,” families are to provide their students with face coverings. The school will have a limited supply of one-use disposable masks for when a mask is not otherwise available.

The staff will be provided with masks, and with clear face shields for when their lips must be seen for better communications. Staff will be expected to wear face coverings when working near the students. Social distancing will be practiced.

“The fiber and fabric of the discussions and separate contacts were blatantly deep-seated emotion,” said Hoey, “but they were kind, professional and productive.” Hoey said he and other staff members collectively heard from around 100 families, and he realizes there are more families in the school district.

“The root of the issue was the word ‘mandate,’ and the loss of choice. We all have our personal choice, but for the sake of others, we make do. Thank you; we appreciate your flexibility and willingness to listen to opinions that are not necessarily your own.”

The Stanley County School District is going to fall back, whenever possible and appropriate, to referring to guidelines from the South Dakota Department of Health and to the South Dakota High School Activities Association.

Registrations for every student must be received by the school by noon on August 7. Each registration will be signed by a parent that each of their students will attend in-person studies or will do online studies. COVID symptom screening is up to each family for each of their children every school day — not the school. A checklist will be provided.

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