Meade School District updates back-to-school plan

Meade School District Superintendent Don Kirkegaard outlines the district’s updated back-to-school plan. Courtesy photo

STURGIS — The Meade School District back-to-school plan is a fluid document that will continue to change up until the official start of the school year on Sept. 8, Superintendent Don Kirkegaard told the school board Monday.

 “This is not a plan as much as it is a document that is going to change. There’s no question that it has changed from two weeks ago up to today, and it is going to change next week and the following week. We’re going to listen to our neighbors, our colleagues, our state officials, and try to adjust accordingly,” he said.

One of the changes on the document since it was first introduced is a mandate for students to wear masks while riding the school bus.

“I’m suggesting that there is no way we can have social distancing on the bus and that we have to require face masks,” Kirkegaard said. “That’s true whether it is the volleyball team going to Aberdeen or the Summerset bus coming into Piedmont.”

Kirkegaard said the district is also suggesting parents consider driving their student to and from school this year.

“CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines cannot be achieved during bus routes. It’s not going to happen no matter what we try to do we cannot follow CDC guidelines, so if possible, parents should consider transporting their children, rather than sending the to and from on the bus,” he said.

But parent and a Piedmont Valley Elementary School teacher Carol Waider said she would like to see masks required not only on school buses, but also in the classrooms during the school day.

“I would like to emphasize the importance of masks in the classroom,” said Waider, who spoke to the school board via the online Zoom program.

Waider said teachers are a critical element to in-person teaching.

“I think we need to take all precautions that are possible to keep us healthy and in the classroom because without that element, the entire in-person school structure falls apart,” she said.

Waider said she wanted to make sure that the district was taking the health of both staff and students seriously.

Here are some of the highlights of the Meade School District back to school plan:

This plan represents the work and feedback from parents, teachers, classified staff, administrators, state and local health officials, food service representatives, busing representatives, and custodial staff.

Provide Monday through Friday in-person learning at all Meade schools beginning the start of the 2020-21 school year on Sept. 8.

Provide an option for students to enroll in an online learning program when parents are not comfortable having their child(ren) attend school for in-person classroom instruction. Registration for the online learning option is open now through Aug. 17.  

Circumstances will likely vary from school to school and program to program, each with unique challenges and solutions. Specific school details will be communicated to parents directly by the administration of the school their child attends.

The district has identified three Phases.

Phase I (green phase) –No COVID-19 cases in a specific school building: face to face learning.

Phase II (orange phase) – Isolated COVID-19 cases in a school building: school is open, but individual classes or departments may be closed if needed. Delivery will be adjusted to accommodate classes or departments that may be temporarily closed

Phase III (red phase) – Substantial COVID-19 cases in a specific school building: operations include the closure of schools and no activities for a minimum of 10 days and a move to remote learning for all students until threat of large-scale school transmission has been reduced and cases within the school have subsided.

The determination to move from Phase I to Phase II or III will not be made in isolation, Kirkegaard said. The SD Department of Health, the SD Department of Education, and local health officials will aid the school district with guidance and a recommendations regarding what phase the district operates in and for what duration of time, he said.

“They will also provide guidance to the school district should they believe there is a need to close a school and for what duration of time. However, the final decision will rest with the school district,” he said.

Kirkegaard said given the current circumstances, the larger schools within the district most likely will start the year in Phase II or the orange phase.

“Based on some of the things that are happening today, I would be surprised if we don’t start in (orange) for some of those larger schools, not all of them, but some of them,” he said.

Starting different schools in different phases is part of the flexibility of the plan, Kirkegaard said.

“I don’t think anybody wants to have a universal shut down,” he said.

You can find the full Meade School District back-to-school plan at:

tinyurl.com/meadeplan

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