The most-discussed item at Monday’s De Smet Board of Education meeting was amending the COVID close-contact quarantine lengths.
A staff member tested positive last week, and it was determined that she had been in close contact with seven students when she wasn’t wearing a mask when potentially contagious. Those seven students are in quarantine now for 14 days.
Superintendent Abi Van Regenmorter stated that a lot more students have been wearing masks. Board president Shane Roth was of the opinion that kids are resilient to the virus but agreed that they have school staff to worry about.
“I’m all for masks in certain situations, but not as a mandate,” Roth said. He works part-time at Brookings Health System and stated that COVID is a very unfortunate pandemic that affects people over 50 and older more. But he thinks it is best for students to be at school. Roth said that he wears a mask when he goes out in public in Brookings, citing their citywide mask mandate.
After much conversation, the board decided that students or staff who have close contact with a positive case, either at home or at school, should follow the Department of Health recommendations and quarantine for 14 days past the time of exposure. However parents have the option to send their child back to school seven days from the time of exposure if they are symptom-free, and if they wear a mask and social distance throughout the school day if they return prior to the DOH recommended timeframe. Parents also have the option to keep their child at home for the full two weeks. And if it is determined that a student is a close contact, he or she can return to school five days from the time of exposure if they were wearing a mask at the time of exposure and if they have remained symptom-free.
The board and administrators noted a bus caught on fire at the bus barn Monday. One bus was damaged extensively and there was minor damage to a couple others. There were no injuries. They have also been looking at options for improvements and renovations at Laura Ingalls Wilder Elementary School. Discussions are in the preliminary stage and options include updating the heating and air-conditioning systems, adding a secure entrance and doing several other renovations at the current building or building an addition on the existing high school.
Principal Andy Armstead reported that parent-teacher conferences were held virtually and they were successful with only a few technical glitches. He stated the middle and high school concert, with restricted attendance went well, and that oral interp students have been having mini-meets, usually with only two schools. The district contest was held virtually. The school cancelled the in-person Veterans Day program and students are compiling a video tribute to those who served in leiu of a program.
“That is sad, but it’s a good choice for us,” Armstead said, “especially when a lot of older people attend.” The elementary Christmas program will also be held virtually to protect families and staff.
Armestad said the fifth-graders will still be able to participate in a planned Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program with the Department of Defense on Nov. 30.
The De Smet school board was notified they had earned the ALL Award for the 2019-20 school year from the Associated School Boards of South Dakota. This award is designed to recognize school boards for their dedicated service to the students of South Dakota. Board members were presented with a plaque to note this achievement.
The board had no open discussion on these matters but approved a public school exemption for one student, approved a signed employment agreement with David Ough as a mini-bus driver and approved the resignation of art instructor April Rusche for the 2021-22 school year.