Meade schools to stick with original COVID plan

As of Friday, there were 32 active COVID-19 cases in the Meade School District. That includes both students and staff. The Meade School Board will continue to follow its original COVID plan which determines when masks are required. Courtesy photo

STURGIS — The Meade School District will continue to evaluate the spread of COVID-19 through the district and modify status of individual schools as warranted, the school board affirmed Monday.

Superintendent Don Kirkegaard had suggested moving all schools to the orange phase — the second of three phases the district adopted earlier this year — because of substantial community spread of the coronavirus. Red is the most restrictive of the phases, orange is less restrictive and green is the least restrictive.

In the orange phase, masks are required when social distancing is not possible in an attempt to lessen the spread of the coronavirus. As of Friday, the Meade School District had 32 cases of COVID-19. Ten of those were at the elementary level, 14 at the middle school level and eight at Sturgis Brown High School.

Kirkegaard said that based on the amount of community spread in Meade County as well as the state of South Dakota that the district consider amending its plan and require masks in the green phase as well until the school board meeting in January.

“I can’t give you any guarantees that it is going to make a difference. I can’t say that we are going to have less transmission because we do or don’t have masks,” he said.

But Kirkegaard did point out that officials with the three largest medical providers in the state of South Dakota — Avera, Sanford and Monument Health — all encouraged the wearing of masks to lessen to spread of the coronavirus.

Hospitals throughout the state, including in the Black Hills, are being stretched to the limit because of the surge in serious COVID-19 cases. As of Sunday, South Dakota is closing in on nearly 20,000 active COVID cases with 550 people hospitalized.

Board member Holly Good made the motion and Charlie Wheeler made the second to require mask wearing in the green phase as well as orange.

Board member Tracy Konst said in doing that, the district would essentially be doing away with the green phase. Each category has criteria which when met or not met determines when a school moves in or out of that phase.

“It gives us a guide for where we are going with the students,” Konst said.

And in reviewing the current number of cases against the criteria the school board adopted in August, all schools should actually be in the green category.

Konst said many of the schools are in orange because of the two-week waiting period after someone tests positive for COVID-19.

“Really, I feel that the plan we put together must be working because we are mostly in green. We went up to orange, but we have come back to green,” he said. “My recommendation is just to stay with the plan.”

Board member Darrell Vig told board members that in eight or 10 states there are lawsuits involving doctor’s offices suing government entities such as cities, counties and even the state because they believe mask wearing can cause bacterial pneumonia.

Vig asked the Meade School nurses if they have seen such a phenomena in this area.

Meade School Nurse Julie Dobler said she has not seen that in the Meade School District, but added that she believes people could do a better job at cleaning their cloth masks.

“I went to the elementary school the other day and some of them are pretty nasty,” she said of masks. “I’m a proponent of masks that are thrown away every day. That’s what I do.”

Dobler said that if the district was going to require mask wearing in all phases, then the district should look at giving students throw-away masks or make an effort to let parents know that their child’s mask needs to be cleaned on a regular basis.

The board voted down an attempt to require masks in the green phase with Konst, Cody Weber, Darrell Vig, J.D. Vig and John Nachtigall voting “no,” and Wheeler, Good, Lee Spring and board chairman Joe Uraniak voting “yes.”

Also at the Nov. 9 meeting, Meade School District Activities Director Todd Palmer discussed updated COVID-19 protocols for the activities department. The board decided to table the plan until the Dec. 14 board meeting and add it to the agenda as an action item.

You can find the activities plan at

http://www.meade.k12.sd.us/files/6816/0467/8736/ITEM_6e_Action_plan_update_rationale_.pdf.

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