SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Gov. Kristi Noem said in a news conference in Sioux Falls the best decision for kids is to have them return to school buildings.
Flexibility will be needed because schools may need to make daily adjustments, Noem said.
Noem said positive cases of COVID-19 will continue to increase in the state, school districts should not set standards that will require them to close school.
“I will encourage them not to set thresholds because then they will be calling off school all the time,” Noem said.
Much has been learned about the coronavirus since schools closed in mid-March, Noem said.
While COVID-19 cases will continue, the science indicates that children “almost never transmit the disease,” Noem said. When children get COVID-19, most have mild symptoms, she said.
“The science is very clear on schools. Our children should be in schools,” Noem said.
The greater risk for students is not being in school, Noem said.
The governor cited a June 1 opinion piece in The Hill by Dr. Scott Atlas and Paul Peterson, both of the Hoover Institution at Sanford University, that says schools need to open again and addresses the harm that can be caused when schools are closed.
While teachers and staff across South Dakota did well with remote, or online learning, when school closed in mid-March, it is not the best delivery system, Noem said.
Roughly 30% of the state’s students did not connect through remote learning, Noem said.
That means some school teachers and staff have not had contact with some students since mid-March when COVID-19 caused Noem to close the state’s schools.
Students cannot only fall behind academically but also emotionally and socially, Noem said.
“The consequences of not being in school are far greater than the COVID-19 risks,” Noem said.
Hand-washing continues to be one of the best ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus, she said.
That’s one way students can stay safer and healthier in school, Noem said.
She will not recommend that school districts require masks for students. Young students will have a hard time keeping masks on, they will be touching masks and both of those can increase the possibility of transmitting coronavirus, Noem said.
Noem cited a school COVID-19 planning guideline from the American Academy of Pediatrics which cites emotional and mental health risks from school closures and addresses mask wearing.
“Children should wear face coverings when harms (eg, increasing hand-mouth/nose contact) do not outweigh benefits (potential COVID-19 risk reduction),” The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines said of face coverings for elementary students.
Noem also cited a June 17 report for The Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto or Sickkids, as its corporate brand, about re-opening schools and a May 11 research article in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics.
You can watch Gov. Noem’s entire news conference in the player above.