The Elk Point-Jefferson School Board met for nearly two and a half hours Thursday, July 23, looking at back-to-school scenarios.

They first heard a presentation from Dr. Meghan Curry O’Connell. She updated them on the history of the pandemic and the county situation to date.

The board next held second reading to “Return to Learn,” which sets out four tiers of protocols to protect students and staff, depending on the level of new cases in the district. Until now, the South Dakota Department of Health (DOH) has not identified infected individuals other than by county. However, beginning Aug. 1, DOH and the South Dakota Department of Education (DOE) will inform individual districts when there is a case in either its staff or students.

“That will allow us to make a decision based on that,” Superintendent Derek Barrios said. “Where do we need to move in those tiers? Is it just a certain grade level, or a certain building that maybe needs to dismiss for a week or two? We’ll be able to base our decisions on positive cases in our buildings.”

That necessarily delays the decision on what tier EPJ will begin on. Barrios hopes it’s Tier I (Green), which sees all students on campus with staff required to wear face coverings and students encouraged to do so. The district will provide masks for staff and any students who need one. Tier 1 is based on less than one case per 100,000 residents, with the district on track for containment.

Tier II (Yellow) would kick in if cases go above nine per 100,000 with community spread. It will still have all students on campus, but changes will be made to how students move throughout the building, with static classrooms where possible and lunches in classrooms if students cannot social distance to DOH guidelines.

See full story in this week’s Leader-Courier.