School year 2020 is far from typical. And it’s even more unique for the nearly 3,000 Sioux Falls’ students opting to learn from home through the district’s Virtual Academy curriculum. SDPB’s Lura Roti talks with parents and administrators to learn more.

When the pandemic closed schools spring 2020, South Dakota parents of school-age children quickly became familiar with remote schooling. But the Virtual Academy option the Sioux Falls School District offers families who don’t feel safe returning to the traditional classroom this fall is different, explains Kirk Zeeck. 

"Back to School 2020" in South Dakota

Aug 27, 2020

Many say that the safe and effective reopening of schools in South Dakota is critical, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. 


We've has spent the last month trying to understand what back to school in 2020 means. You'll hear from healthcare professionals, parents, educators and more in this In the Moment podcast.


Kealey Bultena / SDPB

School districts around the state are responding to COVID-19 cases among staff and students. 

Huron Superintendent Terry Nebelsick says a couple students tested positive for COVID before the school year began. Because Huron was an early hot spot, he says information moves quickly from the city’s testing center to the school administration.   

Cornell University

A leading economist told an online Rapid City audience Wednesday that the power of one person’s example can be harnessed to spread mask-wearing during the pandemic. 

Dakota Political Junkies

Aug 26, 2020

In The Moment … August 26, 2020 Show 889 Hour 2

Governor Kristi Noem is on the schedule to speak today during the Republican National Convention. Meanwhile, COVID-19 is infiltrating our schools and universities before fall classes have much of a chance to get off the ground. Are we experiencing a "second wave" of the coronavirus? The Dakota Political Junkies return to our regular time and we welcome Jon Hunter, publisher of the Madison Daily Leader. Also appearing today is Michael Card, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.

Morning Fill-Up: Robert H. Frank

Aug 26, 2020
Cornell University

In The Moment … August 26, 2020 Show 889 Hour 1

Jackie Hendry

The abrupt end of the spring semester has effected how many college students come back to school—but not in the way many might expect. The University of South Dakota is seeing unusually high numbers of freshman returning as sophomores this year.

USD President Sheila Gestring says that freshman retention rate was 6% lower than the previous year in May. But that was before the university announced plans to bring students back to campus.

The state Department of Health reports 71 COVID-19 cases are currently tied to college campuses. The state’s public universities are not expected to report individual campus numbers to the public.

With colleges around the country already closing after outbreaks, local university leaders say it’s up to students how long their campus stays open.

University of South Dakota President Sheila Gestring says there’s no clear number of COVID-19 cases that would close campus again.

Covid-19 Update With Dr. Wendell Hoffman

Aug 24, 2020

In The Moment … August 24, 2020 Show 887 Hour 1

Each week we welcome local medical experts to bring us the latest on the coronavirus pandemic in South Dakota. Today, we're talking back to South Dakota's COVID-19 transmission rate compares to the rest of the nation...and how much is too much information? 


Health reporting on SDPB is supported by Monument Health

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

The South Dakota Virtual School is a collection of online classes from different vendors. The state Department of Education approves each course, and school districts can use them to offer their students more flexibility. The Wessington Springs District has done it for years. Now, it’s seeing increased interest due to the pandemic.

Charlotte Mohling facilitates the Wessington Springs Cyber School. She says it started in 2013 with a student’s passion for rodeo.

SDSU Cancels 2020 Hobo Day Parade

Aug 19, 2020

South Dakota State University is canceling one of its oldest homecoming traditions. The university will not hold the annual Hobo Day parade this fall, citing logistical concerns due to COVID-19.

A statement on the university’s website says campus officials and the 2020 Hobo Day Committee met over the summer to explore options for the homecoming festivities. The statement says the parade would create significant health and safety concerns in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.

Jackie Hendry

Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to the Meade School District as the Meade County School District. The story has been corrected.

The average school day will be different this year because of the coronavirus, but just how different depends on the district.

Some schools are installing plastic barriers and one-way signs in hallways. Some teachers say they’ll dedicate time to review material from last year that students may have missed.

City of Sturgis

Sturgis city leaders thought attendance at this year’s motorcycle rally might drop by half, but it doesn’t look like attendance fell nearly that much.

The rally ended Sunday. Traffic devices counted about 8 percent fewer vehicles in Sturgis through Friday. Arrests and citations ran close to last year’s numbers. Five people died in traffic accidents, compared to three last year.

City of Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken says a city-wide mask mandate is not likely in the immediate future…but he says it could happen if hospitalization rates from COVID-19 increase.

Wearing a mask is one of the recommendations local healthcare leaders give to slow the spread of the virus.

Mayor Paul TenHaken says the most important COVID-19 data point to watch is hospitalization rates.

“One number that we’re watching quite honestly is that 40 hospitalization threshold, and that’s per system," he says.

COVID 19 Update with Dr. Shankar Kurra

Aug 17, 2020

In The Moment … August 17, 2020 Show 882 Hour 1

As students and teachers prepare to head back to the classroom, the pandemic lingers. A vaccine is being worked on and physicians and scientists continue to study Sars-CoV-2. They learn more and more each day. Dr. Shankar Kurra is vice president of Medical Affairs at Monument Health and joins us today with the latest.

Health reporting on SDPB is supported by Monument Health  

4-H Takes Extra Precautions To Keep Tradition Alive

Aug 14, 2020

In The Moment … August 14, 2020 Show 881 Hour 1 This year's 4-H program has meant kids working more on their own. There haven't been face-to-face meetings with other club members nor community projects done by groups. That isolation, to avoid sharing the potential COVID-19 virus, is now mirrored in extra precautions being taken at summer fairs that hold a strong tradition in South Dakota. SDPB's Brenda Wade Schmidt talks to one 4-H family near Baltic, where work with livestock and other projects continued, even though they weren't sure how the summer would end.


SDPB News: Aug 14

Aug 14, 2020

How does South Dakota's top election official view mail-in voting ahead of November's election? Plus, what is the state Department of Health's warning about with COVID-19 tests? All this and more in today’s SDPB News Podcast. Find it on Apple Podcasts or Spotify today.

Covid-19 Update With Dr. David Basel

Aug 10, 2020

In The Moment … August 10, 2020 Show 877 Hour 1

COVID 19 is still here and some say it's here to stay. The numbers in the United States are quite high. Dr. David Basel is Vice President for Clinical Quality with Avera Medical Group and he joins us today to find out what the latest is and if we are any closer to seeing the numbers go the other way. 

Health reporting on SDPB is supported by Monument Health

80th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Aug 7, 2020

In The Moment … August 7, 2020 Show 876 Hour 1

The 80th annual Sturgis motorcycle rally is underway, but not without a major speedbump to the plans. Rally officials expect a much smaller turnout this year than prior anniversary years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Joining us to talk about the rally this year is SDPB's Lee Strubinger.


FRONTLINE: Love, Life and the Virus

Aug 6, 2020

In The Moment … August 6, 2020 Show 875 Hour 1

Sioux Falls School District

Kindergarten enrollment in the Sioux Falls School District is currently below projections for the coming school year. While spring informational events were cancelled because of COVID-19, the district is working to reach parents in other ways.

DeeAnn Konrad is the Community Relations Supervisor for the Sioux Falls School District. She says this year the district is anticipating just over two thousand kindergarteners.

“We’re currently at 1,550," she says. "So about 450 kiddos out there potentially who have not yet registered.”

Rapid City Area Schools

After a five-hour special meeting Tuesday night, the Rapid City Area Schools Board of Education has not yet approved a back to school plan. Board members disagreed on requiring masks and others desire more detailed safety measures from administration. 

What Does A "COVID Safe" Classroom Look Like?

Aug 3, 2020

In The Moment … August 3, 2020 Show 872 Hour 1

Today we welcome Sanford Health's Dr. Wendell Hoffman back to the program. We're going to talk about the emerging research about kids and teenagers and Sars-CoV-2 transmission. What does a safer classroom look like? In the absence of a statewide mandate for school openings and classroom mitigation efforts, how can parents and teachers evaluate the science we currently have so they can make smart decisions about how to live out personal responsibility during the pandemic? 

SDPB News: Aug 3

Aug 3, 2020

What are Rapid City schools' plans to get students back to school? How are veterans getting access to health opportunities amid the COVID-19 pandemic? And, how is a South Dakota bank seeing distribution of some coronavirus stimulus payments? All this and more in today’s SDPB News Podcast. Find it on Apple Podcasts or Spotify today.

The South Dakota bank that issued stimulus debit cards on behalf of the federal government says about one-third of the money remains unspent. 

MetaBank, headquartered in Sioux Falls, issued 3.6 million cards loaded with a total of $6.42 billion beginning in mid-May. 

COVID-19 Scam

Jul 31, 2020

In The Moment … July 31, 2020 Show 871 Hour 1

Scammers often prey upon citizens after tragedies or during difficult times. The current pandemic has some scammers working overtime.  Caitlin Christensen is the SHIINE Director for the Department of Health and Human Services in South Dakota. SHIINE is Senior Health Information and Insurance Education.  Christensen joins us this morning to warn us about a new scam and what people should do to stay safe.


VA Black Hills Healthcare Services

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is reporting a nearly 1,000% increase in video telehealth appointments over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Veterans in the Black Hills region are benefiting in being able to meet virtually with their doctors. 

The VA Black Hills Healthcare System has itself seen an increased usage of telehealth by nearly 200%. A total of 674 virtual appointments were conducted between March and June. 


Sioux Falls School District

The Sioux Falls School District has released details for what it’s calling the Return to Learn plan. The 123-page working document has been boiled down to a 20-page handbook for parents ahead of the coming school year.

The parent handbook includes the expectation that students wear face masks on school property, except in gym class. It also has a check list of COVID-19 symptoms. Parents are to run through the checklist with their child every day before school and keep the child home if even one symptom is present.

In The Moment … July 30, 2020 Show 870 Hour 1

Since April, Sioux Falls School District officials have been planning for faculty and students to return to the classroom. Plans include a virtual academy for those that are not comfortable returning just yet. Several precautions are to be implemented. Jane Stavem is the superintendent of the Sioux Falls School District and she joins us today with more.

Support for education reporting on SDPB is provided by the South Dakota Department of Education

Political Junkies: Back To School

Jul 29, 2020

In The Moment … July 29, 2020 Show 869 Hour 1