District details COVID-19 strategy

Leslie Silverman

The Hill City School Disrtict has an extensive COVID-19 plan that was approved by the school board at the most recent Hill City School Board meeting Aug. 10.

The district has created a self-screening checklist to determine whether a child should come to school. The district recommends masks but is not requiring them.

Students, staff and visitors will undergo a temperature check when they enter the building. New filters were installed in district buildings, increasing air intake by 20 percent. Maintenance staff will provide extra disinfecting to common surfaces.

Buses will be sanitized before and after routes. Drivers will wear gloves and masks.

Food service will have hand sanitizers available at the beginning of all serving lines. The department plans to try to social distance while students are in line.

Visitors will not be allowed in classrooms. Building principals will approve any visiting parent or volunteers.

Special education services will continue as mandated by state and federal laws.

Four options exist for learning in 2020-21 year.

Traditional in-person learning will take place, in which “education will be normal with minimal accommodations.”

An application for homebound learning for immune-compromised students is an alternative. Students turn in assignments but don’t have access to traditional lectures. These students cannot participate in extracurricular activities. This is a 9-week commitment. Applications were due Aug. 17.

Black Hills Online Learning, a tuition based program costing families $3,250, is another alternative to traditional education. Families can choose to homeschool students as well. This requires an application from the state of South Dakota.

In the event the district needs to move to online classes during the school year, all students are assigned laptops in grades one through 12. Students also have their own email address. Planbook.com will be a common platform for the district.

An emphasis will be on student contact if the district goes to distance learning. Teachers are being asked to reply to emails within 24 hours during the week and 48 hours on weekends.

Hill City School District sports will take a common sense approach this school year. Area athletic directors have agreed to a set of COVID-19 policies. Home teams will determine specific rules, like whether fans will be in attendance or required to wear masks.

Hill City School District wants to provide an option for fans to view events, whether in person or via technology.

“Some districts are looking to have no fans. We’re not there yet,” said district superintendent Blake Gardner.

There will be changes to the football sideline box to allow for social distancing. Volleyball won't be switching benches, having a coin toss, in addition to limiting the number of people at score tables.

Student athletes will be given a mask and required to wear them during transportation to games.

District teacher Rick Hamilton has been selected to take part in South Dakota’s Project Lead the Way initiative. Hamilton will be “able to teach computer science courses that include coding and creating apps.” Staff will once again participate in ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training. This will be provided by Deputy Marcus Isakson and the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office.

According to maintenance director Jeff Anderson, the slab work around the Gin’s Gym entrance, the parking lot repair, curb replacement and drain replacement around the Bob Burden entrance has been completed. The basketball court on the playground has also been extended.

Special education numbers are growing, according to special education director Toni Brun.

“We do have an increase in numbers,” she said. “Last week I think we had five new students who enrolled who will need special education services. Our numbers are growing. We’re at 18 at the high school.”

The increasing numbers are due to transfers and identifying new cases.

Brun is working on ways to “change the ways we do things to try to reduce exposure and risk,” during student pullouts. This is due to the COVID-19 situation.

Early intervention preschool begins Sept. 9, running Tuesday through Thursday from 1-3 p.m. Early childhood education screening takes place on Sept. 8 from 2-3 p.m. in the elementary school.

The elementary school was awarded a $2,000 Black Hills Reads grant to purchase various literacy items. Elementary classes will be staggered for entrance and recess to help with social distancing. Classrooms have desk dividers available. Library books will be quarantined and disinfected.

Numbers at the elementary level are about the same as last year. Middle school enrollment is slightly down from last year. The high school might have the biggest number of students in a decade, according to principal Todd Satter.

A large eighth grade class boosted the high school enrollment.

“I think there’s a very good chance we’ll be in the 180s,” Satter said.

The board discussed ideas regarding COVID-19 and the homecoming and the Veterans Day assembly.

“The Veterans Day assembly, which is one of the coolest things we do, but we’re inviting the population that’s the most vulnerable to get hurt from this thing,” Satter said. “I want to have both of them but I also don’t want anyone to be hurt.”

The board expressed its concern and support for the veterans assembly .

“They have a choice to come or they have a choice not to come,” said board member Angie Ross. “We’re wide open in South Dakota. You can come here if you want to and it’s a choice, right? That’s how we’re doing it.”

Options discussed for homecoming included moving all events outside or live streaming the event.

Board President Dennis Krull brought up the point that, “these kids are all together all day every day anyway. I’d hate to see us do away with it.”

Ross agreed.

“They haven't stayed away from each other,” she said. “I think our kids lost out too much last year. This is stuff they need. They need this normalcy.”

The board did not take any action on this matter.

The board discussed policy G, employee use of technology. Gardner recommended striking out two clauses, “listing students as friends on networking sites” and “staff members providing private phone numbers without prior approval of the district.” Gardner said, “We do a lot of communication via texting.”

Gardner is in favor of “any tools we can give our teachers to make their jobs easier.” No action was taken on this matter.

The board approved the sealed fuel bid for Sterns Oil for .8739 per gallon, which was the lowest bid received.

The board approved a memorandum of understanding with Black Hills Online Learning. This will give students an online tuition based option for the 2020-21 school year.

“This year is kind of extenuating circumstances. … Anybody who wished to sign up would be responsible for the $3,250,” Gardner said. This is for one year.

A facility use agreement for use of the cafeteria for a craft show was approved.

The next Hill City School Board meeting is on Sept. 14 at 6 p.m.

User login