Dozens of students returned to school in Flandreau this semester after learning from home since the start of the school year.
A total of 43 students are back in class with 24 in the elementary and 15 in the middle school, said Superintendent Rick Weber. Five additional high school students are back in class.
On the other hand, a few families decided to try virtual learning and leave in-person learning, with 3 middle school and four high school students selecting that option for the second semester.
The change comes at the same time that the number of new cases of COVID in Moody County is slowing down. The county has had 560 cases since March, including 18 new cases this past week, according to Monday data from the South Dakota Department of Health. The previous week there were 15 new cases, and the week before that had seven.
Of the cases, 28 still are positive. The number of those hospitalized increased to 38 from 35 a week earlier. The county has had 1,606 negative test results, and 14 people have died.
In Moody County, 186 people have been vaccinated once, and 14 have gotten the full two doses.
In the Flandreau district, two high school students are out of school with the virus, as of Monday.
About 100 students and their families decided at the beginning of the school year in August to keep their children home because of the threat of coronavirus. The schoolwork that has happened during that time has varied from very little to staying on track, school staff have said.
The return of students will make it easier for teachers to have contact with them in person during the regular school day.
Teachers last month said they were being asked to work their regular day and work in the evening online or on the phone, helping parents and students who were not going to school in person. Teachers said they were stressed and needed help handling extra work caused by the pandemic.
The school board gave teachers a one-time stipend and approved the hiring of two elementary and one middle school teacher for the second semester, staff who could contact families to keep students on track.
Weber said he has had very few candidates apply for the new positions and has not hired anyone. Having students back in class will help ease the after-hours load, he said. “It would be less of a virtual caseload.”
Flandreau has had 38 students who have tested positive for the COVI-19 virus since school started. That equates to slightly more than 5 percent of the student body. A majority of the students are in high school.
The district also has had 22 staff test positive or about 19.5 percent of district personnel.
Teachers and school staff are in the 1D category of people eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination. At this point, vaccines are being dispersed among those in the 1C category.
When Avera Flandreau had a few doses that needed to be used last week, fewer than a dozen staff were able to get the first dose of the vaccination. The schedule for those in the 1D category hasn’t been finalized by the state.
“It sounds like by the end of February, they will have the vaccination out,” Weber said. Staff have a choice of whether they want to get the shot or not.