Questions surround Flandreau's back-to-school plan

A stand-up sign will be used at Flandreau schools this fall reminding kids of safety precautions because of COVID-19.

Flandreau district puts protocols in place for safe start

The effort to finalize the back-to-school plan for Flandreau public school students has included input and questions from dozens of parents and members of the community.
Citizen Jan Zephier asked the board at its July 27 special board meeting if there are more options for online learning that can include local teacher instruction. Teacher instruction would be more effective, she said.
“I think that’s a concern for some of the parents who feel their kids are safer at home,” she said. She’s also concerned about how the school will manage when some parents send their children to class knowing they have a fever or other symptoms.
The school’s plan, at that point, included the option of online learning at home but through educational programs, including Edgenuity for high school students. Online instruction wouldn’t come from classroom teachers in that case, but a local staff member would check in with students in the program, said Superintendent Rick Weber.
The school wants to avoid having teachers teach in their classrooms all day and work at night helping students who are learning online.
“That’s asking our teachers to do two full-time jobs and being paid for one,” said board member Kelly Kontz.
Board member Kari Burggraff said it wouldn’t be double work if teachers would already be recording their classroom lessons.
Parent Pat Heinemann said that at some point, the district likely will have to go online if there are positive cases of COVID-19. “We are a technology school so why can’t we figure it out?” he asked.
The district has had several meetings on the back-to-school plan in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic and is following Center for Disease Controls guidelines and recommendations of other professional groups. The subsequent meetings with the public have included comments from parents and others, and the district has a group of about 40 people that have been advising the school. That group includes representatives with the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, Mayor Dan Sutton and Moody County Emergency Management Director Terry Albers.
The district was scheduled to vote on a final version of the plan at Monday’s meeting, which was help after the Enterprise press deadline.
Mask use has been a discussed as a protocol with many saying they favor students wearing masks but understand for the youngest students, that will be more difficult. It’s a 50-50 split among parents surveyed on whether students should wear masks.
The district’s plan has initially said that they will follow a “Masks on the Move,” option in which students wear masks when they are walking in between places, such as a classroom and lunch. In the classrooms, each student will have a plexiglass barrier on their desks to help prevent germs from spreading.
Whether to send children to school or require they wear masks is such an individualized decision, said board members Kontz and Jamie Hemmer.
But board member Tammy Lunday said when it comes to the school, it’s not a personal decision. “We have to realize we’re in a crazy situation. We need to start this school as safe as we can.”
There can’t be a policy for every child, Hemmer said.
“Every family individually is having to make a really hard decision,” she said. “Individual family circumstances are out of our control.”
Parent Rebecca Hobbie said she wants to know as soon as possible whether masks will be required and who will pay for them.
“We can financially swing that, but we have to know now because there’s going to be a mass shortage of masks again,” she said.
In other action,
•The board waived the $25 technology fee that typically has been charged to high school students because they are allowed to take their computers home. Weber had asked the board it if wanted to include elementary and middle school students in the technology fee because those computers and Chromebooks would leave the school if there is online learning. But the board decided no fee should apply because the computers are required for their schoolwork.
Last spring, when the school went to online learning, not all of the devices came back. Three still are missing, one each at the elementary, middle school and high school.
“There are some kids who have moved, and we can’t get ahold of them,” Weber said.
Families still will be responsible for equipment that breaks.
•The district is looking at an air filtering system that costs about $100,000 and would purify the air.
“When the fans are moving, it’s putting ions into the air,” he said. Those connect with viruses and mold, removing it up to 99.9 percent in 30 minutes, Weber said.
Money would come out of the schools COVID grant.
•The board reviewed four strategic goals that it will work on for the district. They include communications, staff retention, student behavior and improving the awareness and importance of diversity, inclusion and cultural differences.
The board wants to add more specific steps to the goals and approve the plan.
•The board accepted the resignation of cheerleading advisor Kortney Amdahl, if a suitable replacement can be found.

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