After a month of hybrid learning following an outbreak of close contact COVID-19 exposures, T.F. Riggs High School returned to in-person instruction on Monday. The adjustment was announced by the Pierre School District in a letter sent to parents during the weekend.
“I am sure some might be skeptical as to why we are moving away from the hybrid model at Riggs given the recent case numbers in our county, state, etc.,” Superintendent Kelly Glodt told the Capital Journal. “In hindsight, I wish we would have made the change before the recent spike. That said, we are making every attempt to balance what we feel is best for our students while keeping everyone safe. Being in school full time is best educationally as well as best for the social-emotional wellbeing of our students so we are making efforts to ensure that can continue.”
Masks remain required, whenever social distancing is not possible and at all times in hallways and common areas, at both the high school and Georgia Morse Middle School. At Kennedy, Jefferson, and Buchanan Elementary Schools, masks remain strongly encouraged.
“We appreciate your understanding and flexibility as we continue to adjust to changing circumstances and information throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and make every effort possible to safely keep students in school,” the letter adds.
Students at all Pierre schools who are identified as close contacts due to COVID exposure (being within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes) at school or during a school event/activity are now allowed to remain in school and participate in school activities as long as they are asymptomatic and if the student along with the COVID positive person, were both wearing masks at the time of exposure.
In order for identified close contacts to stay in school, they must wear a mask at all times, only to be removed at mealtimes and, if necessary, during physical activity; socially distance whenever possible; agree to COVID symptom checks at school twice a day; and report any COVID-related symptoms immediately. If the close contact student becomes symptomatic, they will be required to leave school, quarantine themselves, and consult with a medical provider about being tested for COVID.
The revised close contact requirements only apply to students who are considered close contacts due to exposure at school. Students exposed to COVID outside of school should continue to follow the State Health Department’s quarantine guidelines.
“In recent weeks, student cases in our school have been relatively low. We continue to monitor and track positives among staff. Oftentimes, the exposure comes from within the home or elsewhere outside of the school. Many schools have made revisions to their quarantine protocols based on the limited number of close contacts from the school setting eventually becoming positive,” Glodt said.
There are currently four active student cases and 10 active staff cases in Pierre schools. The student cases are as follows: one at Jefferson Elementary, two at Georgia Morse Middle, and one at Riggs High. Active staff cases are as follows: two at Buchanan Elementary, four at Jefferson Elementary, two at Kennedy Elementary, one at Georgia Morse Middle, and one at Riggs High. Sixty-six students and 23 staff members are recovered from COVID.
“While I realize I sound like a broken record, it is more important than ever for all students, staff, and community members to become even more vigilant about their personal responsibility to avoid exposure and practice mitigation strategies throughout each day,” Glodt said. “Bottom line: We want and need healthy students and staff in school while symptomatic individuals should stay home, get well, and prepare to return to school when able.”
New COVID cases decreased slightly across all South Dakota K-12 schools during the week of Oct. 25-31, with 624 reported to the state department of health. From Oct. 18-24, 635 new infections were reported. There are currently 802 active cases among K-12 schools, up 41 cases from last week. The total number of cases is now 4,241, with 3,439 recovered. Of the total cases, 3,021 are among students and 1,220 among staff. More schools are displaying multiple infections; the number of schools with three or more active infections has increased from 82 to 91 schools.
Across South Dakota’s colleges, universities, and technical schools, cases are also decreasing. From Oct. 25-31, 133 new cases were reported to the state health department, down from 146 new cases the week prior. There are 195 active cases across South Dakota’s higher education institutions, up slightly from 192 last week. This brings the total number of cases to 2,050; 1,855 of which are recovered. Of the total cases, 1,864 are among students and 186 are among staff. The amount of cases per school has gone down slightly; two schools only have one-two cases whereas last week every school had three or more.