Rapid City parents consider supplemental remote learning or district transfer for fall semester

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Back-to-school plans for many local districts are still incomplete and once they’re set, they’ll still be fluid given the unknowns of the virus in a classroom setting. A group of concerned parents are setting out to either utilize the state’s open enrollment option or get creative with at-home learning.

One option explores the idea of a “home school co-op”. This option would be for students who opt to stay with Rapid City Area Schools and enroll in the remote learning plan.

“Our thought was for our children can work together with a proctor or a mentor overseeing them to help complete the online portions of things,” said Heather Thompson, leading the co-op option.

Thompson says the district’s Back-to-School plan does not include native culture and language, which concerns the group. By doing the school co-op, teachers would be brought in to assist with the online learning platforms while incorporating Lakota language and culture into the curriculum. This cost would fall on the group providing the instruction, not on the school district.

According to Rapid City Area Schools Communications Manager Katy Urban:

“Right now we are solely focused on opening our schools early next month. As always we are committed to providing equitable and inclusive learning environments for all and will maintain implementation of services including but not limited to the use of Oceti Sakowin Essential understandings, culturally responsiveness, Lakota language development, virtual cultural enrichment activities, and social/emotional learning resources from social workers. “

As for the other option, parents say they are considering enrolling their children outside of the RCAS district. The state of South Dakota lays out a process for students to apply for enrollment in a district outside of their local district. 

On Wednesday, August 19, this group of parents are hosting a Virtual Learning Enrollment Fair for families interested in enrolling their children into the Oglala Lakota County public School District.

While the OLCSD is still among the many districts fine tuning remote learning, Amy Sazue of NDN Collective, says even if in-school learning returns, these remote students could continue their courses online.

“We were assured that as members of a large consolidated area, we could create an informal support group and meet periodically with the district to restructure and work on how the delivery is working,” said Sazue.

Both options require technology, something that became a barrier at the end of last semester. They say building relationships early through technology will help serve as the foundation throughout the rest of the semester.

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