Public gives input on Sioux Falls School District’s Return to Learn revision

Education

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Sioux Falls School Board members voted Wednesday night to change their Return to Learn plan. The updated plan says if a student or teacher tests positive, their close contacts could stay in school as long as everyone was wearing a mask. However if a close contact develops symptoms, or not everyone was wearing a mask they may still need to stay home.

The school board unanimously approved the revision tonight after hearing public input. Opponents of the revision worried it would put more stress on teachers.

“I truly understand wanting to make some sort of change to decrease student absence, I absolutely understand that. But I counted today because I have 143 students and I counted 34 of them who did not wear masks correctly. Now do I have to do that everyday now? Is that something I need to be concerned about to add to my list,” teacher Jennifer Bergan-Gabor said.

“School has been open for a month and my colleagues and I are already at the point of exhaustion. This leads to my final concern which is adding another thing to a teacher’s long to-do list,” teacher Mahli Garry said.

On the other side, proponents worried about the stress students are already facing with the current plan — including one mom who has witnessed that stress in her daughter.

“In my count, with high school at Washington, there’s 22 days of school so far. Ella has had two close contact encounters and has missed 15 days of school. She was a 4.0 student. She currently has two C’s, two D’s and an F. We did not sign up for online learning,” mom Alice Wilson said.

Another mom voiced concern for students who rely on being in school for certain services outside of education.

“What is really unfortunate is students who have free and reduced lunch. How are they eating? If school lunch is their main meal, how are they doing during a mandated 14-day quarantine? What about the students who have therapy at school? Or the student who needs a nurse to help dispense their daily meds,” mom Corrine Lee said.

School Board President Cynthia Mickelson says she hopes the new plan will encourage more people to wear face coverings.

“We need to be vigilant with our mask wearing, we need to make sure our students and staff are wearing it correctly and this is a way that we can move forward on that. Once again, we might have to adapt again and we will continue to look at policies throughout COVID,” School Board President Cynthia Mickelson said.

The revised plan will go into effect Thursday.

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