L-D schools address academic eligibility affected by COVID-19 closure

Courtesy photo

LEAD — Distance learning prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic school closure in March didn’t go so well in the academic realm for some students involved in extra-curricular activities at Lead-Deadwood High School.

On June 23, the Board of Education followed a recommendation by School Superintendent Dr. Dan Leikvold to follow the state’s academic eligibility policy for the fourth quarter of the school year, instead of its own, more stringent policy.

“… we’ve had issues with grades,” Leikvold said of some students following the March 13 closure of school. “While some students performed well under that experience, others did not. As a result, our numbers of ineligible students for fall activities is significantly higher than ever, since I’ve been here in 15 years.”

Leikvold reminded the board of the district’s policy that states students must pass six classes in the fourth quarter in order to be eligible to participate in fall activities.

“We do quarters. Then you’re out four and one-half weeks until the next grading period, which is the mid-term of the quarter following the one you don’t pass,” Leikvold said. “The state of South Dakota’s policy (SDHSAA) is not based on quarters. It’s based on semesters. You have to pass four classes for a semester to be eligible for the next semester or be ineligible the entire next semester. So with that said, I am proposing to you that we waive the eligibility policy/requirement for this grading period and go with the South Dakota High School Activities Association policy and that reduces the number significantly. Again, I wish everybody was successful in the remote learning experience that we had, but for a number of reasons, it wasn’t that way.”

Leikvold asked for either a motion at the meeting or for the board to think about the request and to consider waiving the academic eligibility policy for the fourth quarter grading period and go with the activities association grading policy at the July 14 school board meeting.

School board member Tim Madsen, who made the successful motion to follow Leikvold’s recommendation, asked if the eligibility numbers prior to the closure had been reviewed and if the students were eligible prior to the closure.

Leikvold said that yes, the students were eligible prior to the closure.

“I don’t have the numbers for sure, but it’s probably 10 times more that are ineligible if we go with our policy, rather than the state’s policy,” he said. “That’s never happened.”

Leikvold suggested that, then, in the fall, the school district returns to its own policy.

“If they’re not eligible for the semester, going with the state’s now, then they’re not eligible until next January,” he said. “If they didn’t pass four classes, they’re not eligible until next January. For our kids here, who pass four classes for the semester, so they would be eligible if we waive this policy, their next time that they will be held accountable is the four and one-half-week mid-term in the fall.”

Madsen said his thought was to ignore the fourth quarter.

“That’s essentially what we’re doing,” Leikvold said. “Rather than taking the fourth quarter grade, we’re taking the semester grade.”

“So if they were eligible at the end of the third quarter, they’re still eligible,” Madsen said.

“We could do it that way, but they still have to pass four classes for the semester to be eligible per the state,” Leikvold said. “We have to follow that rule.”

Leikvold said the scenario at Lead-Deadwood is that the students had Ds at the end of the third quarter and after the fourth quarter, they had Fs.

“So, they got credit. They don’t have to retake the class. They’re eligible by the state. They just aren’t eligible by our policy. Our policy’s more stringent,” he said.

Leikvold said that remote learning will be more effective next fall than it was last spring.

“I’m confident we’ll learn what we did right, what we did not so well, and fix it,” he said. “I think students will be more cognizant of the need to stay abreast of their work. They just can’t not engage. I think parts of the last 10 weeks is a big do-over. We learned a lot.”

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