Parents, coaches, staff members and students filled the High School Theatre room at the Dakota Valley School Board meeting Monday night, Aug. 9 to address concerns over the new color-phased tier schedule. This tier helps the school determine (per building) what COVID-19 cases are in buildings and when they would move from one tier to the next.

Jason Kleis, head boys basketball coach, discussed the impact on student-athletes and his son, in general, who is hearing impaired.

“I don’t think enough people are talking about the damage that all of this protocol stuff does to our kids,” Kleis said. “I have a son who is hearing impaired. I seen him take a step back this year...”

He said that this is about the kids; they shouldn’t be checking the boxes, but talking about what’s going on with them.

“As a coach, this will be my 15th year as basketball coach,” Kleis said. “I’m going to ask you to look at one policy, specifically, really hard. I’m going to read it to you. ‘Because of close contact, if not fully vaccinated and not wearing a mask during contact, mandatory quarantine for 10 days.’ I can tell you that will be completely disruptive to all sports seasons, to every activity at Dakota Valley, not just sports, based on last year. I think you guys know it. This will be the third year of potential disruption of that.

“We have to sit there and coach these kids,” he continued. “I can have 10 kids in a lane, breathing on each other, grinding on each other, no problem. But the second we walk off the floor, we can’t go to dinner together, we got to get on a bus and wear masks. It’s a joke. The kids know it. These kids are smart; these kids know it. It’s a joke.”

He urged the board to consider what they’re doing to the students, because it’s not fair to them. His research indicated that South Dakota and Iowa have had zero fatalities to children in the school age-range, even those with underlying conditions.

Dakota Valley School Board meeting

There were over 60 people in attendance and more than 400 viewing the live stream of the Dakota Valley School Board meeting Aug. 9 to discuss face masks, student health and the back-to-school plan.

“Consider what we’re doing to our kids,” Kleis concluded. “Give our kids a normal year. Thank you.”

Elizabeth Johnson was next. She stated she has six children and is the wife of a surgeon. She discussed and cited studies on face coverings and carbon dioxide in the American Journal of Medicine. She urged the board to make decisions based on scientific evidence on carbon dioxide levels.

“I can tell you that this was a point of great frustration for me last year when there was a study that was done in 2019 on face masks relating to SARS and they found that there was zero, zero protective anything for the masks,” Johnson said. “Whether protecting the child or protecting people around us. Knowing this, the frustration as a parent, wanting to know why the board had made this call, if they didn’t have... we’re they not taking any medical professional data. Who were they getting their information from when they made this decision?

“Honestly, if they did work, I’d be all for it,” Johnson continued. “I’m not an anti-vaxer, I’m not an anti-anything. I just want my children to be safe.”

She stated that it wears on their children, because if their face masks falls, the teachers are “griping” at them to put their face masks back on properly. Not only the teachers, but other students are “bullying” them about the masks.

“It’s just another level of bullying nonsense to kids,” she said. “It’s outrageous.”

She stated her children came home with headaches, nausea, struggled with breathing, all signs of carbon dioxide.

Stef Collins was next and discussed the mental health effects she saw on her three children enrolled at Dakota Valley. (She also has one child enrolled at Siouxland Christian).

“I get it,” Collins said. “We’re boasting that we had a super successful school year at DV. Every body is like ‘Go us. We kept our doors open, we had in-person learning all year long, it was great.’ I’m going to tell you something... I had one child that got to experience a normal year, and three that were here at DV. If you did a mental and emotional evaluation of the children here at Dakota Valley and the children 15 minutes up the road at Siouxland Christian, I promise you, you will look at our school year as an epic fail, not a success.”

She said that children’s mental and emotional health are on the line. She gave a brief description of the day from what she learned from her children.

“Do you think they’re coming home ripping their mask off like, ‘I had the best day!’ Collins asked. “No. If you had one child at DV that came home and did that last year, congratulations, because most of us did not. I’m begging you. Pump the breaks on all these mitigations and restrictions that you guys did last year. I’m begging you. These kids cannot handle that.”

She gave some data on suicide rates in South Dakota from the suicide prevention website. She urged the board to reconsider. She understands that they have to have a plan in place per the South Dakota Department of Health (DOH), but wants them to look at the mental and emotional health of the students.

Dr. Joseph Carreau stated that he appreciated the fact that a plan was in place.

“I can’t imagine a year ago when there was no plan and not much government oversight as to what should or shouldn’t be done and just having to roll with it the way you did,” he said. “I think we did a fantastic job in this community.”

He was concerned about some of the potential mandates listed in the plan – especially face masks. He stated that there was lack of strong data to suggest masks having been a dramatic reduction transmissibility in the disease. He said the Delta variant is highly transmissible and it doesn’t appear that masks will do a whole lot.

“We got to ask ourselves what the goal is,” he said. “We’re targeting a population that don’t seem to be affected by the virus. The rate of pediatric death related to COVID across the country is extraordinarily low...

“One hundred percent of people in the United States have had access to get the vaccine,” he continued. “If people choose not to have a vaccine or have not had coronavirus themselves, I feel it’s on them. It’s not for us to mask our kids and put them through certain protocols to prevent disease transmission elsewhere.”

He agreed with the others who spoke about the mental and emotional health of the children and the impact it had on learning.

“At the end of the day, I think the decisions have to be on the parents,” he concluded. “If I’m a parent that has a high risk child, then I mask that child or I keep them out of school... I think parents and families have to make that decision for themselves and it’s not up to a board or government body to make the decisions for us.”