Governor Kristi Noem visits West River while its largest district debates final school plan
RAPID CITY, S.D. — One month out from the start of the 2020-2021 school year and Rapid City Area Schools has decided to approve the “Together Again – Back to School” plan.
Meanwhile in the Northern Hills, Governor Kristi Noem paid a visit to Creekside Elementary, in Spearfish, to discuss the district’s plans and address concerns from parents and school staff.
“I think they’re worried about the protocol of the schools, what plans look like and what type of guidance we’re giving them as a state; sanitation processes, will they be isolated in their classrooms, what in particular happens when a kids gets diagnosed with COVID-19 and what happens to staff if they get short on staff,” said Governor Noem.
Noem has given schools the freedom to choose the plan that best suits their individual needs, agreeing that not every school is the same. In recent weeks, she has said that she does not believe schools need to mandate mask-wearing for students.
Masks being a controversial topic, but mainly a concern for parents. Noem says asking schools to mandate wearing masks is not her role.
“The science is very mixed on masks and there hasn’t been universal guidance,” she said.
RCAS voted to mandate masks in schools, during their August 10th regular board meeting.
Another issue, the “digital divide” between students’ and their access to technology and internet services. RCAS’s new plan suggests that on Fridays, this school year, all students will be engaged in distance learning.
Last spring when class was switched to online and at home, RCAS handed out nearly 4,000 laptops for students. The school district says they have 45 percent of their 14,000 students living at or below the poverty line.
With access to technology and broadband being an issue for schools around the nation, Noem says providing statewide 5G broadband access has become one of her top priorities.
“I have said I want our kids to be back in the classroom,” said Noem. “They haven’t had the same accomplishments that they could have if they been in the building.”