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Education Today: Getting kids back to class at Dakota Valley in North Sioux City, SD

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North Sioux City, SD (KTIV) -- School districts across Siouxland continue to look at how they'll get students back in the classroom.

Dakota Valley Schools Superintendent Dr. Jerry Rasmussen said students will return to the classroom on August 17. That will happen with all students and staff with safety measures in place.

"It's been a summer of constant change," said Dr. Rasmussen.

In a little more than two weeks, these halls and seats will once again be filled with students at Dakota Valley Schools. Dr. Rasmussen said those students would all attend classes in person. But he said they realize some students may need that distance learning option.

"Public schools were never designed to be offering distance learning to hundreds of students and so last spring we were kind of just thrown into it," said Dr. Rasmussen. "We haven't been trained on being distance educators and so we are working on that. How we can best provide distance education for those that need it?"

Dr. Rasmussen said a vast majority of their parents want classes in person, but a virtual option may be available for those that want that for their kids.
But, he said they're still working on figuring out what that will look like.

"We would only move to a hybrid situation if for some reason the department of health said that we needed to try and cut our population in half," said Dr. Rasmussen.

Dr. Rasmussen said wherever possible, they're looking for ways to increase social distancing while still being able to function as a school.

"Increasing the space for students at lunch," said Dr. Rasmussen. "Increasing the space in classrooms wherever possible, having all desks face forward has been a recommendation and so we are looking at that."

Students will notice changes when it comes to signage throughout their school. That includes things like one-way signs down the hallways, things reminding them to wash their hands frequently, and signs telling them to wash their hands before entering the classroom.

They're also looking at how they can keep the same groups of students together.

"How can we keep these same sections of 1st graders together and not mixing with the other sections," said Dr. Rasmussen. "That becomes much harder at high school because students take such a variety of classes."

Just this past Monday night, Dr. Rasmussen said the school board decided students and staff will be required to wear face coverings where appropriate and when social distancing isn't possible.

He said that depends on the age level and the activity being done. For instance, he said masks would be required in the hallways, but not during recess. He adds they're still working out the specifics.

Dr. Rasmussen said getting their students back in the classroom is important. He said students need that socialization to continue their development.

"We're really worried about our students," said Dr. Rasmussen. "We want it to feel normal. We want them to feel that they are comfortable that they aren't anxious and so we are also trying to build in how do we educate our students so that they don't feel that school is a whole lot different, while it is different."

Dr. Rasmussen said they'll continue to work closely with their department of health. If a student or staff member contracts COVID-19, he said the department will work through every scenario with them as it happens to determine the next steps.

He also adds sanitizing in common areas will happen several times throughout the day. They will also disinfect student's desks between each usage. They are also exploring the fogging machine option.

Michaela Feldmann

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