At its regular meeting Monday, Aug. 9, the Elk Point-Jefferson School Board decided on the level at which classes will open this fall

The district will begin in Tier I, or green. That is the most open level, with no requirements for student masking. Last year, the district opened in Tier II, with masks required for both staff and students.

Superintendent Derek Barrios said the current level of COVID-19 infections, including the related Delta variant, means the risk of transmission is low within school buildings.

However, John Giorgio sounded a warning note during the public forum. He is a data analyst for Avera Health and is seeing increasing numbers statewide of children contracting the Delta variant. He said his numbers show the number of COVID-19 cases in children today is as high as last January, with nearly 98 percent caused by the Delta variant. Giorgio commended the board for its actions last year to keep students safe, but urged them to be vigilant this year.

“When it comes, it would be easy to say, ‘It’ll be okay; it’ll go the same as last year,’” Giorgio said. “It will probably look different.”

The COVID-19 discussion continued as Barrios took the board through the ARP/ESSER III Funds available to the district. This is the third round of funding from the federal govenment to reimburse school districts some of their expenses due to the pandemic. EPJ has budgeted approximately $243,000 of the $498,000 allotted to them. The district is required to submit a semi-annual report to the federal government detailing how those dollars are spent. The entire amount must be expended by December 2024.

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