Two basic items were on the agenda of the Tuesday, July 28, special meeting of the Stanley County School Board. At the end of the meeting, after an executive session, the board approved the negotiated certified and classified agreements for teachers and other staff for the 2020-21 academic term.

The lion’s share of the multiple-hour meeting eventually led to the calling for another special board meeting. At noon, Friday, July 31, board members will discuss via telephone how the 2020-2021 school year will look, considering the COVID-19 situation. The board will approve, one way or another, on how in-person school will take place. The board is leaning toward “requiring” face coverings by staff and students whenever social distancing is not possible. To listen in to the meeting, phone 605-223-7741, ext. 109.

Hypothetical — though very realistic — situations were discussed concerning any policy, or lack of policy, regarding masks and social distancing. Seemingly, it was an unofficial agreement that face masks or shields will be required at all places and situations whenever social distancing is not possible. To allow any exceptions would make enforcement quite challenging, officials said.

If a student refuses, they will be sent home. If parents say their child does not have to wear a mask, then that is going against school district policy, officials implied.

Many board members also agreed that doing things perfectly is impossible, but they must try for the sake of the students and staff. They seemed to agree that in-person learning was the way to go, rather than start this year as last year ended, with internet learning.

“It doesn’t matter the decision we make; it’s not going to be correct,” board member Michael Roggow said. Fellow board member Shaun Cronin added, “And remember, whatever we decide could change next week.” Cronin was referring to any changes in the COVID situation, changes in the South Dakota Department of Health recommendations, or changes in the South Dakota High School Activities Association recommendations. The Stanley County School District is going to fall back, whenever possible, to referring to the Department of Health and to the SDHSAA.

A distinct possibility is, if masks are not required, the district could lose some staff and those staff members’ children. Only about five or six substitute teachers are available for the district, which has 40 full-time instructors. Those substitutes may opt to not be available, or might be called in first by neighboring districts.

“People become passionate, but we have to decide what is best as a whole for the students,” said board member Shannon Schweitzer.

Superintendent Daniel Hoey put a time restriction on commitments with, “Once you are at a level (junior high and high school) where you earn a credit, you must commit to a full quarter or a full semester.”

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. Free internet for online studies is no longer available through internet providers. Some families simply cannot get internet access to where they live.

Teachers return to school Aug. 19, while classes are scheduled to begin Aug. 24. The first home football game is Aug. 21, and the first home volleyball game is Aug. 28.

COVID symptom screening is up to each family for each of their children every school day, not the school. A checklist will be provided. Families will provide face coverings.

On Friday, July 31, board members voted against the mask mandate. 

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