Yellow Medicine East School Board moves ahead with reopening plans

Kyle Klausing
News Editor
Granite Falls Advocate Tribune

The Yellow Medicine East School Board held their regular meeting on Monday, August 10. The School Board worked to tackle a number of pressing issues facing the district. At the top of the agenda was a discussion about the recent storm damage inflicted on the school auditorium and library roof. According to engineer Tim Staples who is assisting the district, workers need to first dry out the structure in order to better assess the damage. Engineers will need to determine if the currently wet plaster, once dry, will be structurally safe. A flooring specialist is also being brought in to look at the condition of the gym floors and determine if they can be salvaged and restored. After these assessments are made, a fuller project scope will be compiled and brought before the Board.

The other hot button item before the School Board is the question of plans for reopening. Governor Tim Walz’s Safe Learning Plan for 2020-21 lays out the parameters schools will use to develop their model of education (in-person, hybrid, or distance learning). Determining which model a district pursues depends on county rates of COVID-19 infection (calculated as cases per 10,000 over the most recent 14-day period). 0-9 cases clears a district for in-person learning, 10-19 cases clears elementary for in-person and hybrid for secondary, 20-29 means hybrid for all students, 30-49 means hybrid for elementary and distance learning for secondary, while having more than 50 cases requires distance learning for all students.

According to Superintendent Rich Schneider, based on statistics right now (12.16 cases per 10,000 for Yellow Medicine), Bert Raney Elementary School can re-open for in-person learning while the high school would follow a hybrid model. At the same time, Schneider stressed that numbers continue to change before the scheduled first day of school on September 8. He also stressed that they will probably change during the course of the academic year, meaning that the high school might need to shift from a hybrid model to distance learning if there is a significant enough spike in cases.

District staff has prepared three plans and they will be made available to the public on the school’s website. “Our goal is to reduce the spread and get as much on site learning as possible,” Schneider told the Board. He also said that the Board does not need to approve a base model, and that each plan prioritizes “the need for safety of all students and staff members, the need for flexibility in moving between models, and the desires of the majority of the majority of our families to have students in school as much as possible.”

To keep students in school as much as possible, Schneider stressed the importance of maintaining social distancing and abiding by the sanitation guidelines. Areas of the school buildings with “high-touch surfaces” will be cleaned frequently and disinfected by teachers, paraprofessionals and/or custodians. There will also be age-appropriate student assistance in maintaining a clean learning environment. Sanitizer will also be made readily available throughout the buildings and there will be limited access to water fountains (students and staff are encouraged to bring water bottles). Masks are also required throughout the school and will be available for students who do not bring their own. Schneider said that parents are encouraged to begin teaching and modeling proper mask wearing to their children.