Members of the Agar-Blunt-Onida school board heard the Superintendent Kevin Pickner’s “very fluid, tentative reopening plan” during their regular meeting Monday, July 13. The plan was developed by administrators and the reopening committee which is comprised of ABO staff members, parents, board members and Onida Clinic PA Steve Knoble.

With five weeks remaining until the first day of school on August 19, administrators are hesitant to put a final plan into effect. At the same time, they were reluctant to wait until the board’s next regular meeting on August 10 to finalize plans for opening school during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to that end, a special meeting of the board has been scheduled for Monday, August 3 at 6:30 p.m. in room 406 of the high school.

The tentative COVID-19 Mitigation in Schools plan as rolled out establishes three phases.

In Phase I, as long as there are no cases in the building, preparedness measures such as temperature checking everyone who enters the building, frequent hand washing, sanitizing surfaces, and asking staff and families to self-screen for COVID symptoms will be implemented. Common sense adjustments to school practices such as separating desks, distancing when possible, eliminating supply sharing, and maintaining student cohorts to prevent cross contamination will be made. Since at this point there are no COVID cases in district communities, school will open in person as normal on August 19.

For Phase II, in the event of isolated cases in the building, all of the preventative measures of Phase I will be continued along with additional cleaning of affected areas, assessing gaps in prevention strategies, and contact tracing in order to isolate potentially infected individuals. Masks for all staff and students will be mandatory.

In Phase III, if there are substantial cases in the building, the district will go to offsite distance learning with full student attendance remotely from home.

Pickner notes that administrators will look to the South Dakota Department of Health (DOH) for recommendations and advice as needed in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

Regarding upcoming sports seasons, the district will look to the South Dakota High School Activities Association for guidance on both the sporting activities themselves and the degree to which spectators will be permitted to attend events. Social distancing and other considerations are also being studied for band, chorus, and other music activities.

Pickner says that after August 3 special meeting when final plans for the 2020-2021 school year are set, a meeting with parents will be held on August 4 or 5 to discuss the district plan and expectations.

In addition to discussing the district’s COVID-19 opening plans, board members also organized for the year. With the end of his term on the board, Jeff Todd was thanked for his twenty years of service to the district and presented with a Lucite award. Newly elected and appointed board members Cheri Wittler, Tom Yackley, Megan Jaeger, Tory Smith, and Melani Paiz took their oaths of office. Bob Graff was elected board president and Kim Farries vice president. Committee appointments were also made.

The board designated BankWest and Sunrise Bank as official depositories, the Onida Watchman as legal newspaper, Samuel Kerr as school attorney, set April 13, 2021 as the date for the annual school board election, authorized participation in state associations, designated the district’s purchasing agents, set board compensation rates at $75 per meeting, designated the district’s representatives for federal programs, designated Sheriff Bill Stahl as the district’s truancy officer, adopted the district policy manual, approved rates for substitutes and transportation, approved school lunch prices, and approved gate prices.

Contracts with Vivian Foell, SPED Aide and Randy Pool, SPED Aide were approved.

A revision to the district policy manual in regards to bullying was distributed and discussed for adoption at the August meeting.