Pandemic planning in KELOLAND schools Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The school year is upon KELOLAND and with that brings a lot of uncertainty.

Dozens of school districts throughout South Dakota are preparing back to school plans amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Some already have plans finalized, but administrators are keeping in mind how the situation may change.

KELOLAND News sent out a Returning to learn survey to dozens of school districts in the area, asking about plans for the upcoming school year.


Brad Berens, the West Central School District Superintendent, is one administrator who responded to our survey. The district’s plan is ready to be executed, but with some considerations still being taken into account.

“Our plan has to remain fluid, and we have to start someplace. All schools are at a point where they realize we’ve got to have a starting point. And, from there, we’ll continue to evolve the plan and adjust as needed,” Berens said.

Wheels have been in motion for this plan since school let out in the spring, according to Berens. He said West Central’s plan was developed based on comments from parents, recommendations from the CDC and data from the South Dakota Department of Health.

“We did survey parents and we asked them specifically, in the fall, would you prefer to have your student in school, or would you prefer long distance? And, a resounding, 96% of our parents said they want their child in school, in the fall,” Berens said.

Berens also took into account some resources of his own by watching a White House meeting regarding COVID-19.

“The CDC Director said, ‘Schools do need to pay attention to what is happening within a building. You may need to at some point decide that a portion of a building needs to be closed and cleaned. You may have different scenarios that require a different approach and not to assume just because there’s one or two positive cases that you then shut down the district.’ So, everything needs to be considered when a positive case is identified and it involves either a student or a staff person,” Berens said.

All in all, Berens said his staff is excited to begin educating students again.

“We look forward to the opportunity to get the school year started, and see what we can do to keep the kids engaged and moving their learning forward,” Berens said.

George Seiler is the Redfield School District Superintendent. He says by giving each district the flexibility to comprise their own plan, it helps suit each schools needs. His district is currently in the process of developing their plan.

“It isn’t a one size fits all plan for everybody. In Redfield, I believe we have, currently, two active cases of COVID within the Spink county area. It’s considerably different than some of the areas that have had a higher number of cases. I think leaving it up to the discretion of the school districts is an option that’s beneficial for each district to make their own determination and determine their own plans,” Seiler said.

Highmore-Herald is also in the process of developing their district’s plan. Quinton Cermak is their district’s superintendent. He speculates that many things will be different, but there is something that will remain the same, as per every school year.

“The first few days I anticipate being like all first days of school. There’s chaos; there’s nerves, especially in the elementary where they’re receiving new kids. It’s a lot of students they don’t know, but I’m hoping by the fifth or sixth day of school we can get into a routine and the first time we get a semblance of normalcy, even if it’s with some masks and it’s some different types of lunch schedules and recess schedules and all those things,” Cermak said.

Cermark went on to say that some students might not be experiencing quite the same first day of school as others. His district is contemplating giving the option for students to learn from home, but still watch lectures live and participate during class through video calls.

He said no matter where the students may be learning, he thinks everyone is excited to get back to some sense of “normalcy.”

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