Tea schools closed through May 1



The Tea Area school board met by Google Meet in a special meeting March 24.

Superintendent Jennifer Lowery went through a document on how the district is working through the COVID-19 pandemic. The board has followed the governor’s recommendation on closing school through May 1.

Lowery said teachers and staff will be paid during the closure. They must respond to their supervisor and may have to help in other areas. If they are not going to work, they will have to use leave.

The superintendent will work from her office and through Google Meet as much as possible. The business manager, director of curriculum and assessment, director of technology, director of operations, human resources and district administrative assistant will work from home or the office.

Building principals will work from home or their office. The last time materials will be distributed to people is March 26 at 4 p.m.

Certified and support services must work from home. Paraprofessional, library and bus drivers are on call. Custodians have moved to essential functions only. They are to work in pairs and the same two people are to work together at all times.

“Our goal is to limit exposure to one another,” Lowery said.

For food service, they are moving to a pickup in the evening to make meal distribution more workable for working families.

Sprouts will continue to provide choice boards. There is no April tuition. They will continue to receive pay with no interest loan from the district if needed.

For TASK, those workers were offered hours through the childcare cooperative. TASK could handle up to 60 children in their six buildings. They do not have that many at this time. TASK employees are getting paid for the hours they are working.

TASK employees were given the opportunity from the education cooperative to get hours. The board discussed TASK for quite some time.

She asked board members to email business manager Chris Esping for more information on TASK.

The District Education Office is the only building that will remain open at this time. Call between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. if needed, 605-498-2700, ext. 5. Please do not visit unless absolutely necessary.

Besides the document, the board discussed how things are going so far with distance learning. If a teacher gets sick, Lowery said they have options. In the elementary level, multiple teachers are teaching the same grade and could take on those students. In the middle and high school, they have more than one teacher for most things. The plan right now is to help each other internally.

The district is able to count these distance learning hours as school day hours so there is no plan to make these days up in the summer. Lowery said this is a very purposeful way of delivering education.

Tonia Warzecha addressed concerns over students not having internet connection at home. She identified 22 families that self-reported or were reported by teachers that they did not have internet access. Vast has provided hookup and connection to 18 of the 22 families and will provide free service for 60 days. Midco is reaching out to the remaining four families with the same deal.

For the last days this week, Lowery provided student engagement numbers for each of the buildings - Frontier was 70 percent, Venture was 93 percent, Legacy was 97 percent, middle school was 83 percent and high school was 85 percent.

Each building principal gave an update. High school principal Collin Knudson said he has talked to the teachers. A lot of how classes are being delivered now are similar to how they were already setup. He has heard positive feedback and engagement is higher than he would have predicted. Students are happy to see their teachers again.

Middle school principal Michael Bullis said teachers have been documenting which students have not gotten connected or are having trouble and how those problems are resolved. Teachers are reaching out to each other. Parents have been pretty positive but they have had a few frustrated with the online learning format. He expects some reluctant learners who do not want to do school through the online platform.

Venture Elementary principal Jay Swatek said feedback has been solid from staff. The elementary principals have given all elementary teachers the same message. The iPads seem to be going well for K-2. It’s a bit of a learning curve for the parents.

Legacy Elementary principal Samantha Walder said their 3-5 teachers are using Google Classroom. She thanked technology director Chris Friedrich for making sure all students had what they needed.

Frontier Elementary principal Barb Hansen said the teachers with Google Classroom have had 100 percent interaction. The younger grades are a bit harder. Those who have not shown work have been contacted.

Special education director Jody Taylor has conducted several IEP meeting through Google Meet. Participation has been good by the school teams and parents. She has been dealing closely with the state. Staff will not be going to homes and students will not be coming to the school. They are doing tele-therapy.

Lowery reported that there will no standardized testing for South Dakota students.

Prom, graduation and ACT testing was also discussed. Knudson said if they return May 1 they are two weeks away from graduation. Lowery said they can be innovative about graduation and it may not look like a usual graduation but time will tell. They will honor the class of 2020. Knudson said they have received the caps and gowns and diplomas. Prom is still unknown. It was decided that will have to be talked about more as they go along.

Knudson said the April ACT testing has been moved to June. They are hosting that testing and might host another one in July.

School board election was also discussed. If no one ran for school board, the board would appoint people for one year until the next election cycle. That discussion is still ongoing.

As far as sports and activities, Lowery said there was a conference call March 25 where they would find out more.

Knudson said there were some changes for dual credit courses. Drivers ed was supposed to start Monday for the first group and then early April. They will likely start again after school is out.

The board went into executive session at 7:30 p.m.

After executive session, the board made a motion to suspend a student from Feb. 29, 2020 to Feb. 28, 2021 for a violation of policy JGD/JGE.

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