Schools prep for more closures

Gray Hughes

The Hill City Board of Education held a special meeting Friday to discuss the district’s plan to deal with COVID-19.


The district said it was working proactively to confront the possibility of students being off from school longer, which Gov. Kristi Noem confirmed on Tuesday would be the case with schools closed to students until May.


“I’ll be the first to tell you that (the employees of the district) have stepped in a major way,” said superintendent Blake Gardner.


On March 11, when it was announced that South Dakota had its first case of COVID-19, Gardner said he met with teachers from each school and in every discipline to brainstorm the worst possible circumstances. He said he was “put at ease” because the teachers already started addressing how to handle students at home.


Students will have access to one-to-one laptops, and administrators surveyed the students in the schools to see who does not have internet at home.


For students without internet, packets have been created. Further, the Wi-Fi at the school has been opened up to the public. Students can be outside the school and access the Wi-Fi to do homework.


Since school has been closed, the custodial staff has cleaned the schools thoroughly including using cleaning supplies that kill COVID-19 and using an anti-bacterial fogger that kills both bacteria and viruses.


“We have a grant that will provide food services to all of our enrolled students,” Gardner said. “That is a big deal to me. The prep will include breakfast and lunch, and we will do a drive-thru Monday through Thursday. There will be enough food to last for multiple days.”


There will be no outside activities at the school untilfurther notice, Gardner added. The Big Band Dance was canceled and refunds will be offered. The fitness center, too, will remain closed.


There are a lot of things right now outside of the district’s control, Gardner said.


“For our elementary school students, it’s important to say we don’t know how long this is going to last but let’s focus on what you can control: your attitude, your effort and how you treat other people,” he added.


The Hill City Board of Education also voted to approve an emergency payment plan that will pay all employees regular pay during the COVID-19 mandated closure beginning March 30.


“Certified teachers will be required to work from home and occasionally report to school,” said Dennis Krull, president of the Hill City Board of Education. “Hourly employees may be asked to help with cleaning, online tutoring, compiling resources, making breakfast/lunches, delivery of food and other tasks not yet defined as an expectation of payment.”


The payment plan passed 5-0.

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