BROOKINGS – Brookings School District officials are still working on a plan for how school will start for local students this fall.
Superintendent Klint Willert gave a list of options at Monday’s Brookings School Board meeting but said that no one option has been chosen yet.
The superintendent and school board anticipate finalizing a plan by July 20.
“I know that there are a number of questions that continue to circulate to how school will open next fall,” Willert said. “We just don’t know.”
Willert said there are three possibilities: for all students to be back at the school buildings; for school to be done entirely online and remote; or for there to be a hybrid approach combining the two previous options.
Some of the hybrid considerations amounted to having student groups come into class on alternating days and deep cleaning schools in between, when students would have their classes online. Another option is to have students who are falling behind or failing classes attend in person, while the students who are succeeding normally via remote learning keep taking their classes online.
“I don’t have definite answers for any one single option right now. What I learned … is the guidance is not coming from the State Department of Education or the Department of Health until mid-July – which I know that we have anxieties about the July 20 date, but that just reaffirms where we’re at right now,” Willert said.
Willert said that while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has guidelines and recommendations for COVID-19 protocols, they are nothing more than guidelines and have no legal authority. However, he said there are still serious implications and liability issues should the school district not follow the guidelines.
“What our legal counsel shared was that CDC guidelines are just that – they’re not rules or laws. However, if a district would operate and somehow a very serious illness occurs – life threatening illness, loss of life – there is an exposure that if the district did not adhere to these established guidelines. And that’s where it becomes really difficult for us,” Willert said.
Willert also said implementing CDC guidelines would be impractical and cause several issues for how the school functions.
If social distancing was implemented, there could only be between seven and eight students per classroom that normally hold around 30 students; buses could only carry a handful of students; and no outside organizations, like GAP and many sporting events, would be allowed to use the school buildings.
Willert also said that mandating masks would be difficult because of financial reasons as well as how the school would discipline a student for not wearing one. Teachers could be the determining factor as to whether or not they would want to teach in-person or online, and per CDC guidelines, school meals may have to be take-out only.
Willert also said that after a survey of roughly half the teachers in the district, 45% of them said that they are worried about face-to-face contact with students.
“I wish I could give parents more answers,” Willert said.
Both the board and Willert said their main concern is the health and wellbeing of their students and wanting them to have the best education possible. They also discussed the difficulty of the decision due to both health concerns and also politics.
To watch Monday’s special school board meeting, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYdsLwFZLg8.
Contact Matthew Rhodes at [email protected]