The Elk Point-Jefferson School opened its regular meeting Monday, April 12 with a public forum and heard from two parents concerned with continued mask requirements at the school.

Holly Sabaliauskas and Dawn Lias asked the board to consider what they feel are risks associated with children wearing masks. Sabaliauskas asked the board to take into consideration the low number of cases in the school and area. Lias questioned the efficiency of masks.

The board addressed these concerns later in the meeting, during the Return to Learn Plan updates. Board member Travis Geary said all along, the board was trying to keep on top of a fluid situation, looking at new information from the Center for Disease Control. He asked whether there were any new guidelines. Superintendent Derek Barrios said the main change was socially distancing now required only three feet of spacing.

Board member Sabrina Sayler advised staying the course with current requirements, since there is only a month left in the school year. She does not want seniors to miss out on graduation and prom as they did last year. She thinks summer is the right time to ease restrictions, as the board will have time to study the effects.

“My position, for what it’s worth, is that we should really look at easing into some restrictions where we’re not requiring masks all the time,” Sayler said, explaining she struggles with wearing a mask all the time. “It’s not all positive, but I think it was the right decision at the time and it’s the right decision to keep doing it.”

Board member Noelle Jacobs agreed current restrictions should stay in place until the end of the school year, to protect graduation, prom and awards night.

Barrios told the board most of EPJ staff would be receiving their second dose of the vaccine this week. That means about 81 percent will be fully vaccinated. There are currently no positive cases in the district, and he wants to insure that’s the case for the rest of the year.

In his report, Technology Director Myles Larsen said he’s working on upgrading the phone system for next year. He’ll be using the state’s K-12 data center and Microsoft Teams. Teachers will all have a Teams phone, but will also be able to use their laptop or computer as a phone. That way they can use their phones from anywhere, not just in the classroom.

K-5 Principal/District SPED Director Laura Throener said there are lots of exciting things happening for elementary students. Although they won’t do many of the usual spring field trips, they do have field day and awards day set to be held outdoors, so everyone can be a part.

Middle School/High School Principal Skyler Eriksen said the Leadership Team has been meeting to focus on policies for the upcoming school year. Their discussions center around policy changes due to the pandemic and what policies will be in place to start the school year this fall. He said there are two new course offerings: Mathematics for College Readiness and Criminal Justice. He has 12 juniors who are interested in internships next year. He and Counselor Christine McMeekin-Hemmingstad are working to line up business for those interns. He reminded the board of Senior Awards Night Monday, April 26, graduation Saturday, May 15 and MS Awards/8th Grade Graduation Friday, May 21.

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