Haakon School District set to open school as planned

There is a lot of uncertainty today, with regards to how institutions, whether private or public, should be handled in the midst of COVID-19. Every day it seems new information is released in regards to the virus. With that in mind, Haakon School District 27-1 Superintendent, Jeff Rieckman, stated the 2020-2021 school year will begin as planned, with the school district sticking to the posted calendar (available on the school’s website at: http://philip.k12.sd.us /home). Currently, the first day of school is set for Wednesday, August 19. Rieckman said this is the plan, unless the school district is told otherwise. In regards to sports and events put in place by the South Dakota High School Activities Association, no information has been released at this time but will be made available as soon as possible.
Rieckman stated there will be some precautions to follow, like increased hand washing as well as hand sanitizer available in every classroom and at designated stations in the hallways. Rieckman said if they can handle it, they will have staff wipe down desks and chairs throughout the day. Rieckman stated the two biggest headaches for school districts seem to be bussing and lunch time. Haakon County doesn’t normally bus students (with the exception of away games) and one headache is virtually eliminated because of that. The lunch room may see some changes, primarily with the removal of the salad bar and instead, the salad bar being served by either the food/line staff or offered pre-packaged. Students will also be asked to bring reusable water bottles to school each day, and only the bottle filler water fountains will be used. Rieckman discussed a potential change to the school’s HVAC system. He said there has been discussion on a system that claims to kill 99% of pathogens, not only COVID but the flu, SARS, MRSA, etc. “As long as the air, whether heat or air conditioning is on, this system should kill this bacteria,” Rieckman said. The company currently being looked at is Global Plasma Solutions.
Rieckman addressed rumors regarding the “specials” (art/music/ p.e./computers) and recess being removed for the year and says that is not the case. A meeting was recently held with the Department of Health and the Department of Education and they believe being outdoors is good for students. “There were discussions about it, but as of now specials and recess are staying,” he said. This is not to say there won’t be some precautions. For example, currently, recess is K-3 and 4-6. Recess may be split into smaller groups, like K-1, 2-3 and so forth. Recess held prior to the start of school may be changed as well.
Regarding students entering the building, there may be temperature checks each morning. There has been conflicting information whether temperatures should be taken upon entering, or if thirty minutes should be given before taking the first temperature to possibly gain a more accurate reading. There may be a student checklist, possibly posted on the school’s website that is to be filled out daily. Questions are regarding the student’s health like, “does your child have a fever of 100.4 or greater?”. If any of the questions are answered “yes”, the student must stay home.
Regarding drop off and visitors, Rieckman said parents will most likely not be able to enter the school with their children for morning drop off and afternoon pick up. Rieckman also addressed the attendance policy and said there will be modifications for this year given the current situation. The policy will not be as strict but it will be based on a case-by-case basis regarding the student’s reason(s) for being absent. School work may also be given to students staying home, in the event they are exposed and need to self-quarantine and are able to complete it. Rieckman also addressed online learning and says the school district is ready and able to provide online learning in the event the school must shut down (or shuts down for a deep cleaning). “We don’t want any children falling through the cracks or left behind,” he said.
Regarding masks and face shields, Rieckman said at this time the school district is not making this a requirement, this would be at the discretion of parents. The school will have masks and face shields on hand for staff that prefer to use them.
There are two more school board meetings before the start of school, one on Monday, July 13 and the other on Monday, August 10.

The Pioneer Review

221 E. Oak Street
Philip, SD 57567
Telephone: (605) 859-2516
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