In a message to parents Monday, the Yankton School District mentioned the possibility of e-learning from home should COVID case impacts on teachers and staff continue.
Though the South Dakota Department of Health did not give a COVID case update for Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, the state on Friday saw active cases reach a record high at 26,835. Cases increased by 8% from the previous day and increased 222.4% over the preceding two weeks. Also Friday, active cases in Yankton County rose to 629, the highest number since Dec. 11, 2020.
Late Friday afternoon, the Yankton School District reported the following cases: Yankton High School, 28; Yankton Middle School, 14; Beadle School, 7; Lincoln School, 7; Stewart School, 2; and Webster School, 14. The 72 total cases was a 125% increase from the 32 cases reported the previous week. Also, there were 15 people who tested positive but had no school exposure at school.
“The COVID-19 surge is impacting the school, like it is many places,” YSD Superintendent Wayne Kindle told parents in the message Monday. “We have multiple staff out due to COVID-19, other sickness, day cares closed, family situations, etc.”
Staff includes teachers, cooks, custodians, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, office staff, nurses, and at this time, substitute teachers, he noted.
“Our staffing shortages and substitute availability are becoming very concerning,” Kindle said. “In order to plan ahead with a contingency plan, we have discussed online E-Learning as a possibility if we get into a more dire situation involving staffing.”
Given the rapidly changing case numbers, staffing and substitute teacher situations could also change quickly, he said.
The YSD Return to School Plan details two additional learning options should climbing COVID numbers make in-school learning too difficult. These including the Hybrid Learning Model and the E-Learning Model.
The hybrid model provides for groups of students to attend school every other day in situations with high student absences.
“While we have a number of students absent due to COVID-19 and other related illness, our concern at this time is with staffing to keep kids in school on any given day,” Kindle said. “Thus, this option is not one we would consider regarding our staffing concerns.”
E-learning would have students and teachers doing schoolwork virtually from home.
“This option is there primarily in the event we can’t operate school due to staffing shortages,” Kindle said, “or if we needed to close a particular building or classroom due to COVID-19 spread at school.”
Despite the current high student case numbers, the need to close any specific YSD building has not arisen, but the e-learning model would allow the district to continue should staffing shortages worsen, he said.
“While our goal is to keep kids in school for a variety of reasons, the availability of staffing will play a vital role,” Kindle said. “We are asking families to please be prepared to utilize online e-learning if our situation with staffing and substitutes would necessitate a change to online e-learning for a period of time.”
Kindle emphasized that no decision has been made regarding e-learning and YSD schools will continue with in-person learning for now.
Anyone with questions should contact their child’s building principal. Those wishing to substitute at the Yankton School District should contact Kelley Casey at the YSD administration building by calling 605-665-3998.