SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Although about 90% of South Dakota schools were able to do in-person instruction for most students during the 2020-2021 pandemic year, more than half still provided remote instruction during the year.

The 90% and other data is based on the responses from the public, private and tribal schools that participated in a survey from the South Dakota Department of Education. The information from a COVID-19 impact study is included in a DOE report called “Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on South Dakota K-12 education” released in July.

During the 2020-2021 school, 59% of the schools also provided remote learning the entire school year.

Access to a device for remote learning did not seem to be a problem as 88% of schools said students had access to school device they could use at home. But internet access, particularly broadband access was a problem for some students.

In South Dakota, 11.1% of the 176,000 individuals age 5–19, or about 17,820 individuals, didn’t have broadband Internet at home in 2019, according to the Regional Educational Laboratory Central at the Institute of Education Sciences.

Gov. Kristi Noem’s  K-12 Connect program offered free internet access for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year to households in which as least one person is in public school and the housed qualifies for free and reduced meals. The report said 624 households with 1,103 students enrolled in the program

Noem’s office said in October 2020 that estimated that  7,000 families were eligible for the program.

Schools also stepped in to help.

The report also said that 44% of the schools provided internet access to families without access. Schools did that by providing internet devices called hot spots the students could used outside of the school. Others had Wi fi access in parking lots or through community access wifi.

About 10% paid for internet at students’ homes. Another 3% worked with providers to get lay land line access.

From the spring of 2020 to the fall of 20, schools reported that some students had lost learning.

Noem mandated in March that schools close for certain period.

Schools reported that most or many of their students who had lost learning recovered it during the 2020-2021 school year.

Student absentism increased during the pandemic school year, according to the report.

Thirty-two public school districts reported more than 5% of their student population missed six weeks or more of school, according to the report.

In 2018-2019, 3.8% missed 30 or more days of school.

The report said several groups may be disproportionally represented in the absentee rate. Those groups include economically disadvantaged students – a group that makes up 36.3% of the total enrollment in K-12 public schools, and 48.2% were Native American students – a group that makes up 10.6% of the total enrollment in K-12 public schools.

Students with learning disabilities and English language learners may have most negatively impacted by the pandemic and were of students of concern, the report said.

Although schools were able to provide remote learning to students with learning disabilities some services that required one-on-one instruction such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and monitoring of behavior plans could not be provided by 9% of the schools.

Of the 48% of the school who had English language learners, 19% said those students participated in remote learning at some point during the school year. Only 10% had remote learning for the entire year.

The DOE said in the report that the survey was provided to 830 state-accredited schools in May 2021. The survey participation rate was more than 96%.