BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) – Just a handful of schools in South Dakota are mandating masks for their students and staff. That’s why some parents in Brookings took matters into their own hands and opened a new center of learning.

Last year, seven-year-old Weston Clark was learning virtually, but now he’s back in class thanks to a new education option in Brookings.

“I enjoy playing with my friends and playing outside and doing free time and eating lunch and, yeah, it’s pretty fun,” Weston Clark said.

The second floor of the Children’s Museum in Brookings is now home to a brand new school. The Prairie Learning Academy was started by parents who wanted more safety options for their kids.

“We wanted them to have a safe space to socialize as well as get a good education and we weren’t quite finding what we were looking for in the area,” Andrew McCann, parent and volunteer with the Prairie Learning Academy said.

All staff at the Prairie Learning Academy are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. And anyone who enters the classrooms must wear a mask.

We’re not against the district or anything, we just want a place that’s safe for our kids and to get on with the education of our children.

Fedora Sutton, principal of Prairie Learning Academy said.

“If others thought that it wasn’t that critical then we’re not in the business of trying to make them do anything, but certainly we can find a solution for those of us who believe that this is how we keep our children safe,” Fedora Sutton, principal of Prairie Learning Academy said.

Sutton is a retired SDSU professor. Both the head teacher and the assistant head teacher are retired elementary school teachers. Right now, there are 14 Pre-K through fifth-grade students enrolled in this new school.

“Not only is it safe, but the curriculum is really great. You know, it’s child-focused learning, the teachers are very engaging. Our group size really enables us to work with the kids individually and as a whole,” McCann said.

We’re meeting the South Dakota Department of Education’s goals, requirements for primary school and we’re going beyond.

Fedora Sutton, principal of Prairie Learning Academy said.

The school rents space on the second floor of the Children’s Museum of South Dakota, but it is not a part of the museum.

The Prairie Learning Academy is tuition-free, but run by donations and volunteers. You can click here to learn more about the school.