Rapid City Area Schools Administration is developing plans for our 2020-2021 school year. We are focused on the safest and most practical return options and that is where our families can help. Please take the short survey (link below). Your answers will provide critical input for meeting the needs of our RCAS students.
Before you begin, we want you to know we are working on fully opening our schools. This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a set of recommendations for safely opening school. The group representing 67,000 pediatricians wrote, “The academic, physical and mental upsides associated with reopening outweigh the risks, especially as evidence mounts that children may not be the superspreaders medical experts initially assumed they were and that they tend to exhibit milder symptoms when they do contract the virus.” The group added, “Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation.”
While we hope to open schools with added safety measures, we also know that some families will still not be comfortable sending their children back for in-person instruction. To address this concern, we would like to offer a full-time online/remote option.
If families choose to keep their children home to participate in online/remote learning, here are some of the things to expect:
- For the most part, the online/remote learning day will follow the same operational hours as the in-person school day. Students will login to class and watch and participate in lessons in real time with their peers.
- The expectations for students participating in online/remote learning in the fall of 2020 will be the same as for those attending in school in terms of attendance, grading, and responsibility. As plans are further developed clear guidance and communication will be shared with all families.
- For those, who choose online/remote learning, students will need access to reliable internet and devices. RCAS will provide computers to students who need them.
- For high school students, there will also be an online/remote option for students who meet certain criteria to work independently in courses in the online learning platform Edgenuity.
If families choose to send their child to school on campus, here are some of the things to expect:
- Families should self-screen at home. It is recommended that families take temperatures daily before going to school. Anyone with a fever of 100 F or higher should not go to a school site. Students and adults also should screen themselves for respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath prior to coming to school each day.
- Daily screenings, including random temperature checks, will be conducted. Students and staff with COVID-19 symptoms or a temperature of 100.4+ will be isolated immediately and sent home.
- All students and employees must stay home if they have COVID-19 symptoms, tested positive, or had close contact with a person with COVID-19 within the last 14 days.
- For those who are ill, health department guidelines will be followed for return to school/work.
- Frequent handwashing will be encouraged, with breaks for scheduled handwashing at the elementary level.
- Cleaning/disinfecting of buildings, surfaces, and high-touch objects will be done more frequently. Ventilation systems will be monitored for proper operation.
- Buses will be cleaned/disinfected after morning/afternoon routes.
- The use of masks can be a challenge for some children, so they will not be required for students. However, the wearing of masks will be strongly encouraged for those who can.
- Schools will not allow families and visitors in school facilities.
- Schools will stagger lunch and playground schedules; and will hold meetings/events virtually as they are possible.
- Where feasible, rooms will be arranged to allow for three to six feet of space between students.
- Students will not share, materials, supplies, or equipment, and will be discouraged from sharing devices and equipment used for athletics/PE.
- Cleaning/disinfecting protocols will be used in computer labs, media centers, and athletic facilities.
- Cafeteria keypads will be replaced with touch-free system.
- Drinking fountains will be disabled. Students will be encouraged to bring water bottles from home.
Additionally, to better train and prepare for needed COVID safety protocols, online/remote learning, and navigating education during the pandemic, RCAS administration will ask the Board of Education to consider pushing the school start date from August 26th to September 8th.
Finally, we know that the COVID-19 crisis is not over. We are now seeing spikes in many states and new highs of reported cases. In our community, it is likely that cases will continue to increase as thousands of tourists come to the Black Hills to sightsee and attend large events. With that being said, there is a possibility that school may have to begin online or that it might be necessary for us to go to exclusive online learning at some point during the year. We will continue our close partnership with our health experts as we finalize plans for the start of the school year.
Please take a little time to share your feedback through our survey. We will provide you with more updates by the end of July.
NOTE: No recommendation and plan for reopening schools for the 2020-2021 school year has been brought to and approved by the RCAS School Board at this time. The questions in this survey are designed to understand our parents’ preferences and do not indicate a commitment by parents or schools to any option(s) presented in the survey.