At its regular meeting Monday, Jan. 11, the Elk Point-Jefferson School Board heard good reports about students’ return to the classroom after the Christmas break.

Both High School/Middle School Principal Skyler Eriksen and K-5 Principal/District SPED Director Laura Throener said things went smoothly last week. Throener said elementary students particularly seemed glad to be back in the classroom with their friends.

Superintendent Derek Barrios said there have been several positive COVID-19 cases in both the upper and lower grades. Eriksen told the board he and Dean of Students Justin Clercx have set assigned seating for MS/HS students in the lunchroom to cut down on close contacts. Throener said assigned seating would be difficult for elementary students, but each class is seated separately.

Barrios said the lunchroom and kitchen will be a primary concern as the district begins a master planning process this month. The district has contracted with ISG, Inc. to look at all its facilities and they have been informed that the need for more space at lunchtime is imperative. The planning process will involve committees from the individual buildings and a community task force.

Barrios told the board he monitors the COVID-19 cases in the county to determine attendance at sporting events. Although state numbers are down, the county’s have been higher, so the restrictions of four passes per participant for a single event and six per double-header will continue. He said the district has received very little information from the state on when and how school staff will receive vaccinations, but believes they could occur within the next several months.

A group of superintendents from the District 16 met with legislators to discuss the start of the legislative session this week. Barrios said they were encouraged by Gov. Kristi Noem’s plan to add 2.4 percent to state aid, on top of the 1.5 percent increase for teacher salaries.

Barrios asked for emergency approval of modified COVID-related sick leave use for second semester. Currently, staff members may use sick leave only if they or a child is ill. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act allowed staff to use sick leave if their child’s daycare closes or their child is sent home from school as a close contact, but it expired Dec. 31. The board approved extending it through the end of the current school year.

In his report, Technology Director Myles Larsen said he has been updating operating systems to Windows Server 2019. Board member Travis Geary asked Larsen about difficulties streaming wrestling matches from both gyms. Larsen said it’s not something he had noticed, but said he would look into.

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