School board opens facilities to groups with Tea youth



Tea Area School District school board met Nov. 9 and discussed COVID-19 and how to open facilities. Superintendent Jennifer Lowery noted that the COVID Response Team met last week. They discussed the possibility of opening facilities for use by youth organizations. The response team recommended opening gyms to groups with Tea youth in them, however, they would have to follow further regulations set forth by the board and noncompliance would result in not being able to use the facilities.

To check on compliance, the superintendent would watch the video recordings of the gyms at random or when a complaint was issued. Some of the regulations include limiting practices to the coach and the team members, wearing a mask inside to the full extent possible, a coaches meeting that spells out regulations to sign off on and 15 minutes between practices to allow people to move in and out without contact. No games and no tournaments are allowed at this time. 

Board member Tara Johanneson read a statement in 100 percent opposition to the plan. She said the community cares about sports more than anything else and feels the district should be moving into level Red rather than opening up more. She noted they denied outside groups like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and LEGO League in August. She also said it did not make sense to open when numbers are rising.

Lowery noted in full disclosure that she is coaching one of her children’s basketball teams and they currently meet at Venom. Johanneson asked how many people on the COVID Response Team had children playing youth sports. Lowery said it was herself and one other person.

Board member Conrad Pick pointed out that the board is responsible for managing the facilities of the school and taxpayers pay for the buildings. Board president Kristen Daggett said besides educating children their job is also to provide opportunities for the kids and protect them. She felt the district’s constituents have their heads in the sand about the virus and the community is supportive of the district.

The board approved the use of facilities by non-school sanctioned practice/activity for Tea Area school-aged teams when in the yellow and orange statuses and adhere to special regulations on a 4-1 vote, with Johanneson voting no.

They also approved elementary students ability to attend their specials in the specials classroom in the yellow level. They also approved opening the library to patrons during non-school hours, but no activities.

Johanneson questioned the transparency of the number of positive cases. Lowery worries that they are already violating people’s privacy the way it is because of the low numbers. Board member Jason Bennett thinks what the district is doing is efficient. Lowery noted the district started the year tighter than anyone else did and is proud of what they have done. She also noted it is exhausting having the internal struggles constantly trying to do right by the kids and added that the district is taking the virus extremely seriously.

Lowery was going to consult with the attorneys on this topic and the board agreed to post active cases per building and send out courtesy notifications with Bennett voting nay.

Lowery updated the board on the COVID Finance Team. Total allocated money from the COVID Relief Fund is at $374,096.06, additional expected expenses was $225,328.46, and potential future expenses was $15,000 for curriculum. There was  $180,090 to improve efficiencies for carpet scrubbers, sprayers and other custodial needs.

The board approved the resignations of Marsha Stacey for elementary library and Kaitlyn Soukup for full-time floating substitute.

They approved the new hires of Kyle Svanda for transportation manager, Eric Hanson for buildings and grounds manager, Amanda Larson for executive assistant to superintendent, Duke Mose for custodian, Brenna Daggett for paraprofessional, Todd Gannon for halftime assistant wrestling, Jonathon Gorter for halftime assistant wrestling, and Deb Holter for elementary library.

They approved the eight early graduate applications pending approval of first semester credit completion.

The board approved enrolling in the Avera Employee Assistance Program and the second reading of Title I Part A Comparability.

The board decided to donate the Chromebooks that were surplused after no bids were received. They talked about donating them to LEGO League.

Lowery noted they are working with a Realtor to explore land options for a future elementary school as the district continues to grow.

After the board broke for executive session at 8:17 p.m., the board approved stipends for all employees from the COVID Relief Fund starting at $300 prorated up to $1,000 for retention of staff. 

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