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School board approves Start Well plan: Masks required on bus, not mandatory in school buildings

The Tea Area School Board met Aug. 9 for their first of two meetings this week and discussed the district’s COVID-19 plan to start school.

Superintendent Jennifer Lowery explained the COVID-19 Start Well plan. She noted the district will start in level green where there are 1 percent or less of the district population having active cases. This start means masks are not mandatory in school buildings. Students riding buses will be required to wear face coverings on the bus. The district’s mitigation strategy is to have families and staff self-screen for COVID at home and they are encouraging families and visitors to the district to practice good hygiene and complete health screenings before attending school or activities.

Lowery noted they received 301 responses to their survey on the plan. She noted that 62.8 percent agreed or strongly agreed with the proposal, while 15 percent were neutral and 22.3 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

After the board had time to ask questions, members of the public were allowed to ask questions and make comments.

Numerous members of the public noted their appreciation for the work the board has done and what a hard spot they are in. Most comments revolved around when and how masks would be used and whether the 1 percent threshold should be a higher percentage.

One community member asked if stricter restrictions had to be enacted and attendance at activities had to be limited would the district reimburse activity passes or offer access to online streaming of games. Lowery was going to do some more research into that question.

The board approved the plan 4-1 with Tara Johanneson the nay vote who thought masking to start the year was the right choice. The full plan can be found on the district’s homepage at

They approved the substitute teacher pay rates for the 2021-22 school year. Those rates are $115 per day for non-certified substitutes, $125 per day for substitutes with a four-year degree, for long-term assignments (10 consecutive days for the same staff member) substitute will receive $135 per day for non-certified substitutes and $145 per day for those with a four-year degree.

They also approved the school lunch rates, which did not see an increase for the 2020-21 school year. Business manager Chris Esping noted that the breakfast and lunch meal will be no charge again this year, however, students will need to take all parts of the meal to be free.

The board approved the resignations of Sarah Linder as foodservice middle school, Deb Holter as librarian at Frontier and Venture Elementary, Michelle Zolnowsky as middle school foodservice, Jillian Bosma as Venture Elementary paraprofessional and Lindsey Jaixen as Frontier and Venture Elementary counselor.

They approved the new hires of Josh Sundall for athletics/wrestling, Rachel Roskam for SADD activities, Landon Ahlers for athletics/basketball, Jeremy Tietgen for library, Allison Longhenry as elementary teacher, Sierra Scott as paraprofessional, Mary Pruitt as middle school foodservice, Nancy Brannon as middle school foodservice and Ashley Schwarz as a Legacy Elementary teacher.

The board presented several first readings for six policies. The proposed medical marijuana policy is the recommendation that was approved by the Associated School Boards of South Dakota.

The recommendation is that the caregiver would be the one to administer it and has to have a card approved by the South Dakota Department of Health.

Other policies include compulsory attendance ages, students’ alternative instruction, participation of alternative instruction students, administration of medication to students and alcohol and other drug use by students.

The board approved the high school and activities handbook. Most of the changes in those books revolve around students doing alternative instruction.

The board approved the bids for the technology and surplus items they received on Monday. Many items did not receive a bid. Discussion was held about letting people take leftover items or cooperating with tLINK about distributing them or having a tech company come in to remove some items.

They also surplused one of the oldest school buses that has the highest mileage and one of the most expensive repair buses.

In Lowery’s report, she noted the district has 2,176 students registered for the new school year. She thanked Reliabank for breakfast for the all-staff in-service. She also noted the district’s two presentations at the annual convention were well received.

The board adjourned at 8:13 p.m.


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