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Education

Sioux Falls Teachers Worry Current Back-to-School Plan is Unsustainable

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A group of around 40 teachers gathered outside the Sioux Falls School Board meeting Monday  afternoon to oppose the district’s current back to school plan. They worry lack of clear physical distancing measures and no mask requirement will lead to a COVID-19 outbreak—and another emergency turn to virtual learning. 

Grace Gill is a Government teacher at Roosevelt High School. She tried arranging the desks in her classroom six feet apart.

“I could fit twelve," she says.  "Now, I made it a little looser to the three feet, and I could fit 24 with that three feet adherence guideline. And the fact of the matter is I’m going to have 30 kids in a classroom and unless they do something to promote social distancing, you’re gonna have 30 kids in a classroom. No masks? That’s a breeding ground for COVID-19.”

Teachers are especially concerned after the rise in local coronavirus cases over the weekend—the largest increase since May.

During the public comment portion of Monday’s Sioux Falls School board meeting, Garfield Elementary teacher Nick Jackson offered his back-to-school proposal based on the percentage of COVID-19 positive tests in the area.

“No in person schooling until the weekly percent positive rate is below three percent," he says. "When we average under three percent for two weeks, in person schooling can resume with all the recommended precautions, including masks and regular testing of teachers and students. Only when we’ve achieved no new COVID-19 cases for two weeks can we start talking about no regulations.”

The City of Sioux Falls online COVID-19 dashboard shows the current weekly percent positive rate is 10%.

Grace Gill says at a minimum she wants the district to include a mask requirement with its back to school plan. She wants to return to class--

“But I think this plan as proposed means that we are in school for two weeks and then we’re back to virtual school, which is not something I want. I want a sustainable policy that allows us to not only go back but stay back.”

School administrators say more details on the district’s plan for the fall are coming later this week.