The Dakota Valley administration and teachers requested pushing back the start date for students by two days to ensure proper teacher training and implementing new protocols due to COVID-19. The Dakota Valley School Board approved pushing the start date back, after much discussion, at their special meeting Monday, July 27. The new start date for students is Monday, Aug. 17.

When it came to requiring, recommending or encouraging mask use, the board discussed ramifications at length. Concerns ranged from language due to “requiring” meaning there could be possible discipline for students who don’t wear them. However, Dakota Valley Special Services Director Linda Steele shared concerns about students with special needs not being able to wear masks due to medical conditions or other sensory issues.

“In my meetings that I’ve held with both national and state representatives there are some areas, if we make this a requirement for all to wear masks, that there are some students that this is probably not going to be the best thing for them,” Steele explained. “Specifically, if you look at my early childhood children, you’re talking about three- to five-year-olds wearing a mask and expecting that that really will happen. I believe that’s going to be really difficult for our teachers to manage that. You also have the kids that are going to be in the room getting their masks all wet that will be saturated because a lot of them do have the inability to really control drooling and so forth. If a mask is wet, it becomes a health hazard because you cannot breathe through it and it would put them in harm’s way. Which concerns me a great deal.”

She stated she’s also concerned about students with cognitive delay as they might not completely understand why they have to wear the mask whether they’re in middle or high school. She explained that more students will now be coming forward with anxiety issues about the masks or those who aren’t wearing them.

See full story in this week’s Dakota Dunes / North Sioux City Times.