Parker School District to reopen with a “Return to Learn” platform

Parker school board members Greg Simmermon, Jason Chester, Superintendent Donavan DeBoer and Brett Olson social distance at last week’s school board meeting, held in the gym. (Photo/Dawn Rye)

Dawn Rye| Writer

During last week’s Parker School Board meeting, the board discussed reopening the school to students with CDC guidelines in August.

Superintendent Donavan DeBoer said he worked with elementary principal Janelle Johnson on the “Return to Learn” reopening plan.  He noted the program would be a very fluid document. DeBoer explained he is also waiting to find out what the South Dakota Activities Taskforce to decide on a sports season.

DeBoer commented he has a hard time stating that students need to wear a mask on the bus, participate in an activity then return on the bus to wear the mask again.

He noted the school plans on sending out surveys to the community by Monday, Aug. 3, to determine how many students want to participate in remote learning. The study is due back by Thursday, Aug. 6.  He said the school would be offering a remote learning platform and come up with a handbook.

DeBoer explained the COVID-19/Parker “Return to Learn” handbook uses the Department of Health guidelines. He said the leveling system, for example, would be a level zero, and would indicate the school would be a traditional routine.

DeBoer commented the school would social distance the best they can with the hopes of having the opportunity to isolate groups if a positive case is present.

He said he spoke with Parker guidance counselor Darmi Vogel and there would not be any service learners to start. DeBoer explained that high school students would not be allowed to mingle with the elementary students.

DeBoer noted level one essential would be a positive case that doesn’t impact the students at school. He said level two would be the positive case that would affect school staff or students.

DeBoer commented the Department of Health informed him that they would handle the contact traces. He noted that it is a positive thing.

DeBoer said this would give him some anonymity and some privacy when receiving those phone calls.

Board member Brett Olson asked would the remote learning be as challenging as in school work?

DeBoer said the current plan for remote learning is that the school is purchasing web cameras for every class. He explained the webcams for students who choose the remote learning option; students would be expected to log in. DeBoer noted the cameras would be focused on the teacher only when they are lecturing.

He commented the school expects it to be more structured; however, it becomes more difficult as the students get younger.

Board member Greg Simmermon asked what happens when a student’s remote learning is lacking, how does the school address that issue?

DeBoer noted they have worked with the SRO (School Resource Officer); however, just because the student is remote learning doesn’t mean they are not truant. He explained if the school deems the student is not participating, the SRO will issue a ticket.

“I’m very happy that the Department of Health has stepped up to give us some the definitive answers we need,” commented DeBoer.

Johnson noted that the school has a particular development plan to help teachers when students return and remote learning.

DeBoer said he doesn’t believe the school is in a position to require a mask and recommends students who have a high risk. He noted the school would support student and staff that want to wear a mask. DeBoer commented the school does have masks ordered. He explained in the COVID handbook and student handbook there would be a protocol for a mask. He said the school anticipates younger students that won’t be able to keep them on their face. DeBoer commented they also expect if the school doesn’t allow students to wear a mask, that parents might get upset. He explained it would be on a strike system and how to wear the mask properly.

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