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Committee of school leaders expected to have fall decision by mid-June

Committee of school leaders expected to have fall decision by mid-June

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Lori Simon

Lori Simon, superintendent for Rapid City Area Schools, responds to questions about school closures at a press conference earlier this school year.

As the school year comes to a close with the majority of K-12 students still learning from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, local school districts and the state have the summer to determine how schools will return in the fall and what that might mean for students and families.

Rapid City Area Schools superintendent Lori Simon said a committee of education leaders across the state anticipate to have more guidance for schools by mid-June.

The group includes staff from the Dept. of Education, Dr. Wade Pogany from Associated School Boards of South Dakota, Rob Monson from SASD, Dan Swartos from the State Activities Association, several superintendents and school principals from around the state as well as several business directors and curriculum directors.

“Our goal is to put together guidance for school leaders regarding the 2020-21 school year in a document that is useful for (them) as they think about reopening buildings for students and staff,” Simon said. “Our timeline is short, with the work anticipated to conclude mid-June.”

Katy Urban, community relations manager for the district, said workgroups in the district are evaluating what social distancing would look like in classrooms, and the groups will have a better idea of that by August.

The state Department of Education is still in the process of developing more guidance for schools to consider as they plan for the school year. The process also involves the state Department of Health.

“The guidelines will attempt to balance concerns about health with concerns about instruction and learning,” said Ruth Raveling, information specialist for the education department. “Ultimately, local school boards and administrators have the authority for their school districts.”

Raveling said a guidance document is in the works right now, which will help districts make “reasonable, informed decisions.” Decisions may vary from district to district, Raveling said, depending on current conditions of the coronavirus and its spread in a community.

As fall inches closer, the state is still planning to have students back to school, but many districts are putting in contingency plans for remote learning, said Gov. Kristi Noem on Tuesday.

“I think they’re being wise in preparing for any situation that could come along this fall,” Noem said.

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