At its meeting Monday evening, the Yankton School Board approved a motion to require a 14-day quarantine for confirmed close contacts to cases of COVID-19.
Last week, representatives from the state Department of Health (DOH) met with school officials across the state and announced that, from now on, the decision on whether to quarantine close contacts in cases of COVID-19 for the recommended 14 days would be left to individual school districts.
“Since schools opened, if there was a positive case at a school, we would work with the DOH and determine who we thought were the presumptive close contacts in the school,” Yankton School District (YSD) Superintendent Wayne Kindle told the board. “We would provide that information to the DOH, and they would contact these (individuals) and confirm that they were — or were not — close contacts.”
Until last week’s announcement, the DOH enforced a 14-day quarantine for close contacts, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Now, schools will make that determination.
The 14-day recommendation has not changed, Kindle said.
“There is no question about their recommendation that, ‘If you are a confirmed close contact’ — we’re talking in school and outside of school — ‘you need to quarantine,’” Kindle said. “What they have decided is that this needs to be a local decision on whether or not schools follow through with it.”
After the DOH announcement last week, the YSD Health Advisory Committee met to consider the issue. The committee is comprised of school administrators, school board members, local health care workers and the county health officer. The committee decided unanimously to advise continuing the 14-day quarantine policy as the best way to keep the schools open, he said.
Also Monday, Webster Elementary School Principal Melanie Ryken gave an update on the school year so far at Webster.
The United Way’s “Stuff the Bus” program delivered several boxes of needed school supplies to serve students throughout the year, she said.
“Also we had a grandpa who brought us, I’d say, $200 worth of school supplies,” Ryken said. “He said, ‘I was at Walmart shopping for school supplies for my granddaughter, and I thought some other kids might need some supplies.”
Ryken also showed several photos of the new COVID plan in action at Webster school.
“Our 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds, all the way up to our fifth graders, walk into the building and (put on their masks),” Ryken said. “Yes, some of them forget them, but thanks to all the generous donations that we had in our community, we have plenty to give them to use.”
It is heartwarming and sad, but, in all, good that the students know that masks are now part of their daily routine, she said.
Ryken also showed the board photographs of socially distanced lunches as well as the implementation of desk shields in the classrooms.
“You’ll see that teachers have gotten very creative (with use of the desk shields),” Ryken said. “They didn’t work great on smaller round tables, but they made them work; they opened them up, they put them together and they clipped them.”
There are also sanitizing stations in some of the school hallways and portable sinks to help with frequent handwashing.
Yankton’s public elementary schools are trying to balance the need for normalcy with the need for a safe school environment during the pandemic, she said.
“We allow mask breaks at recess, in PE and at lunch,” Ryken said. “There probably isn’t anyone wearing a mask for even two hours at a time, because there are so many breaks for them throughout the day.”
Also at Monday’s meeting:
• Yankton Middle School Principal Todd Dvoracek demonstrated the new online learning system that eighth graders at the middle school are using on a daily basis;
• Webster’s parent-teacher board hired a local artist to paint two murals at the school;
• There was a school finance presentation on cash fund balances and teacher accountability reporting;
• The board approved a stop-loss reinsurance premium for the school district’s health plan;
• The board corrected an administrative oversight regarding Gayville-Volin bus pick-up/drop-off points for the 2020-2021 school year;
• The board approved a motion to implement revised federal Title IX regulations.