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School District considers options for fall

By Anne Homan

All over the country states are dealing with the same question, whether or not to open schools.

President Donald Trump has made it known he would like to see all students nationwide return to the classroom and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has reiterated that idea.

The Lennox School Board 41-4 held their regular meeting on Monday, July 13 with discussion held on their “Return to Learning” plan.

A committee was formed following last month’s meeting and Superintendent Chad Conaway said they have been working through some critical issues and he feels they are well on their way for students to be able to come back to school safely.

A survey was sent out by the District last week with 1,034 responses. Of those responding 999 indicated they wanted to come back to campus this fall based on the criteria provided in the survey. Thirty-five did not feel comfortable coming back and indicated they would prefer distance learning.

“We want to educate students on campus if we can,” said Conaway. “It doesn’t matter how good of online you offer, it isn’t the same as being in a classroom with an educated teacher.”

The option discussed for the 35 who responded they did not feel comfortable returning was for them to fill out a home school exception form or for the district to come up with a virtual learning platform.

“I would hate to see 35 families disappear into home school,” Conaway stated. The District has been talking with Harrisburg and Tea School Districts and all are looking to find affordable ways to pool resources for those who want to do distance learning but could still remain a part of the School District.

Conaway continued to stress the importance of on campus learning.

“As much as possible we need to have our doors open for our kids,” said Conaway. “We want to minimize the spread. We won’t stop it, no one has.”

The committee has discussed several options to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

There was discussion of going to a four-day school week so the District would have Friday, Saturday and Sunday to clean the schools.

“We know we have to increase our cleaning,” said Conaway. The District has ordered electrostatic machines which provide a quick way to disinfect. They have one for the buses and one for each building. They are also looking as to what they will require of the custodial staff and what teachers are going to have to do as far as cleaning in their own classroom.

The committee also talked about taking temperatures of students before they enter the building.

“That’s been a recommendation from the committee thus far but might need a little more thought because that is going to be a logistical nightmare,” said Conaway.

Conaway also noted the District has ordered several no touch thermometers in preparation of this.

He also said taking temperatures daily has been a stipulation for those attending Totally Kids this summer but the number of kids attending is far less than what will attend during the school year.

“The other option most school districts are considering is to strongly recommend face masks for students,” said Conaway.

He noted the Mitchell school board was looking at mandatory masks, which was passed Monday night at their meeting.

“That’s another hot button issue,” said Conaway. “People get pretty defensive about wearing face masks.”

On the buses, however, Conway said the committee would like to see it mandatory because there is no way to social distance as the buses are completely full.

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