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School board passes tiered COVID-19 reopening plan for Douglas School District

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Douglas High School

Douglas High School in Box Elder

The Douglas School District's Board of Education voted 3-2 to pass a school reopening plan outlining what measures will be taken when COVID-19 positive cases reach certain thresholds in the district's population. 

The plan's case percentages are based on a population that includes both staff and students. 

A full, detailed version of the plan is available on the school district's website at https://www.besd.net

The plan details include four thresholds: 

Threshold 1: Schools will remain open when the number of total positive COVID-19 cases is less than 1.5%. Face coverings will be voluntary. 

Thresholds 2 and 3: Schools will remain open when total positive cases are between 1.55% and 4%, though individual classrooms, departments or buildings may be closed as determined necessary based by administration based on local attendance data and continuity of operations. Face coverings will be required when a three-foot distance cannot be maintained and close proximity is longer than 15 minutes. 

Threshold 4: Administration will bring a recommendation to the Douglas Board of Education regarding the best delivery system when positive cases reach 8.1% or over, which will include the consideration of school closures and moving classes to virtual learning. 

Board President Cathleen Melendez noted that a committee comprised of parents, staff and board members worked to provide operational continuity within the plan, which came up in discussions as a top priority. 

Operational phases will a minimum of two weeks in duration to preserve continuity, which is described in an added statement within the 2020-2021 school reopening plan. 

Two people spoke during the public forum portion of the meeting, which preceded the board's discussions of the plan during Monday night's meeting. Both are mothers of children in the district and spoke in opposition of mask mandates for students. 

Board Member Chris Misselt commented on the plan and the role school districts have when implementing safety measures related to COVID-19. Misselt said he attended the Rapid City School District's Board of Education meeting last week, including the public comment portion which lasted five hours. 

"I don't know whether representatives of the district or other board members took the time to do that or not," Misselt said. "It was interesting, it was disappointing. One of the most tragic things about that meeting is the things we're talking about in committee and here as a board, so much of what we're talking about has nothing to do with the virus. It has everything to do with politics, social agendas, it has everything to with people firmly entrenched in their encampments and people taking sides and division."

Misselt admitted that he can be an opinionated person at times, but expressed his disappointment with the lack of a realistic expectations in the statements of those against and for certain issues related to COVID-19 plans. 

"We pulled the trigger hard and fast in March of 2020, and we expended every bit of good will and every bit of tolerance that the public had, we went too fast, too early, and ran out of gas," Misselt said. 

Misselt said students, particularly those in grades K-12, are least prone to hospitalization. 

"Pacifying people and selling the 'it's for the children' narrative. We've expended hundreds of workforce hours on this problem," Misselt said, pointing out how little of the audience is given to morbid obesity, diabetes and other comorbidities present in everyone's everyday lives. 

"But we're focused on something that has a negligible effect on the majority of our population," he added. 

Misselt then reassured anyone who's immunocompromised or vulnerable to COVID-19 that the district will do everything they can to keep them healthy.

"We will care for you, I promise you. As the parent of an immunocompromised child for years I know that terror personally," Misselt said. "But I'm not going to let everyone live in a state of anxiety from a false narrative." 

Misselt and Board Member Ben Frerichs voted against a motion to pass the plan as presented during the meeting. 

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