Seniors, staff and district leaders have been meeting throughout the pandemic to discuss options for how students will return to learning in the fall as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Pennington County, and across South Dakota. Several potential plans for returning to school were discussed at Monday night’s school board meeting.
Superintendent Lori Simon said a senior leadership team is serving as the steering committee on the task force that will determine how schools will open this fall.
Simon also said based on the latest guidance she heard from the governor’s office, the decision to reopen school districts will be made by school leaders, not a sweeping decision from the governor’s office as was made via an executive order on March 13.
“From the latest information that we’ve been given, because this pandemic is playing out so differently from one side of our state to the other and from one community to the other, we believe it’s going to be a local decision,” Simon said. “As things evolve, could that change? Certainly.”
Potential plans for reopening Rapid City’s schools include the following:
A normal start, with “identified and vetted health and safety measures put in place,” Simon said;
A hybrid normal start for students, with a remote start option for families who don’t wish to have their children at school yet;
A delayed start until sometime after Labor Day;
Students starting school in shifts;
A remote start;
Backup planning for a return to remote learning sometime during the school year, if necessary;
Changes to the school calendar.
Simon said surveys will be sent out to parents and families “because we want them to weigh in on their preferences and concerns” in the coming days. Surveys will also go to district teachers and staff, she said.
Four different workgroups with staff, school and district leaders are vetting and ranking each of the aforementioned scenarios for their viability. Each of the options will be ranked in order of preference, and presented to the board at next week’s special board meeting, Simon said.
Simon said the timeline for ranking the plans is “fairly aggressive” as the final meeting for the “opening of school” task force is scheduled for June 30, when the workgroups will share their final reports.
From there, the task force will be able to make a final recommendation to the school board at the end of July or beginning of August.
Plans for returning activities and details are also being finalized in alignment with the state activities association, Simon said.
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.