RAPID CITY, S.D. — The Rapid City Area Schools Special Board of Education met in a special session on Wednesday to discuss and vote on a resolution to modify the criteria used to determine each pandemic student learning and activities level. The Board voted 4-3 to adopt the resolution.
“As a community, we need to help each other…everyone needs to do their part to help…everybody’s going to have to sacrifice a little bit,” said Clay Colombe, Area 5 Representative.
Transparency was a major part of the discussion, with Superintendent Dr. Lori Simon disputing an accusation by Policky that schools were previously moved to Level 3 when the infection rate was still less than one percent. RCAS District Health Coordinator Sateera Thompsen echoed Simons’ sentiment that this was never the case.
The resolution, authored by Amy Policky, lays out the following seven items:
- a committee, established by Superintendent Dr. Lori Simon, will bring together District COVID-19 Team members, local health officials, pediatricians, and mental health professionals in order to create a transparent student learning mode decision-making guide using CDC and SD Department of Health guidelines and data
- the creation of additional committees in areas of protocols, extracurriculars, wellness and mental health, and community education as needed
- a review of the District’s student learning mode every two weeks based on considerations set forth in the transparent student learning mode decision-making guide
- student learning modes may be different among grade levels and in different District buildings
- the student activity level can differ from the student learning level if the learning level is changed due to a staffing shortage and not an outbreak
- the Superintendent has the ability to change movement between instructional modes at the District-level, individual class, grade-level, or building-level so that she may respond quickly to increase levels of safety precautions when circumstances require it
- the Superintendent will submit a revision to the Together Again Plan that amends the levels and includes five days a week in-person learning for the start of the second semester
With the fill rate for substitutes at 50% and many teachers filling in for their absent colleagues using their own planning time, concern was raised that metrics potentially established would have the goal of remaining at Level 1 regardless of the variable nature of the pandemic.
“What we learn and what we know is continually evolving,” added Dr. Simon. “The plan we have in place needs to be relevant to the situation.”
Many concerns were brought up during the intense debate, including the mental health of both students and teachers. Human Resources Director Synova Nicolaisen challenged the notion that suicide rates among students was increasing, stating that there is no data to support this belief.
Nicolaisen posed the question, “What do you want to see from us?”. Area 3 Representative Brian Johnson addressed her question with a simple answer – “Results.”