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RCAS board's consideration of COVID testing and vaccination ban slated for Tuesday

Kate Thomas

Board President Kate Thomas, Area 7

The Rapid City Area Schools Board of Education is about to consider a “resolution to ban COVID-19 testing and administering of vaccines at all Rapid City Area School District schools, buildings and properties.”

The resolution is slated for a meeting beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the City Hall Council Chambers at 300 6th St.

As previously reported, the ban would apply to “any Rapid City School District 51-4 building or any property at any time for any reason” and asserts that “an employee who violates this resolution is subject to appropriate disciplinary action.”

Much discussion has ensued since the board posted its resolution on the school district's website.

In an emailed statement to the Rapid City Journal, Jason Cole, a social studies teacher at Stevens High School, voiced concern.

“We have both had many COVID scares over the past two years, and without the testing offered by the school nurses, the potential for an outbreak seems overwhelming,” he said.

He noted that he and his wife, also a teacher in the district, received COVID-19 tests at their schools that turned out positive, enabling them to remove themselves from school faster than they would have otherwise.

“It is unimaginable to me that the school board is even contemplating getting rid of testing or allowing vaccinations on school property,” he said.

Dr. Kay Kelts, a family medicine physician with Rapid City Medical Center, also expressed consternation about the resolution. Regarding the current practice of testing for COVID-19 on school grounds, she said, "This is helping kids stay in school."

Kelts is the parent of a first-grader in Pinedale Elementary School.

Kelts contended, along with others, that testing for COVID-19 in a school can allow a child whose results are negative to stay in school, rather than losing time by getting tested elsewhere.

She also reflected on the connection between health care and education in a school.

"A school is not a health care facility in the sense of being like a clinic," Kelts said. "But a school is there to help a child in all aspects of learning while keeping the child’s safety in tact. Part of safety is health – and that is where the health care comes into play, in keeping a child safe."

Also on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting is an item called “Real Property Purchase Agreement – Shepherd Hills.” The proposed agreement is between BH Capital, LLC, of Rapid City, and the Rapid City Area School District.

“The idea is that as this part of our community begins to grow and expand, at some point we will need to put an additional school in that area,” said Coy Sasse, director of business and support services for Rapid City Area Schools.

According to the report linked to Tuesday's agenda, “The seller's price for this 51.44 acre parcel is approximately $22,000 per acre, for a total purchase price of $1,131,680. The seller wants to donate $377,267 at the time of closing. The net purchase cost is $754,413 ($14,665 per acre). The seller will also donate 5.53 acres north of the proposed site to the district at no cost to the district.”

The property includes 51.44 acres, according to the report.

Sasse said an elementary school would most likely be the sort of school the district builds, and he estimated that construction could take place in the next three to five years. He noted that many variables, including financial ones, could affect that projection.

“The entire valley is experiencing a tremendous amount of growth right now,” Sasse added.

He noted ways this particular parcel of land could serve the district well.

“This site sits in great proximity to neighborhood areas,” he said, something that could expedite bus and car transportation.

“Students who walk would have the ability to do that very safely,” he said.

Also among the measures scheduled for a vote at Tuesday’s meeting are “substantial completion” of the Pinedale Roof Replacement Project. According to a report to the board, “The District awarded a contract to Black Hills Roofing for the Pinedale Elementary Roof Replacement project,” and “substantial completion has been achieved on this project.”

Tuesday’s meeting is also scheduled to include a first reading of a policy regarding “participation of alternative instruction students in activities.”

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