FREEMAN, MENNO SET FOR ‘NORMAL’ RETURN TO SCHOOL
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
When students from Freeman Public and Menno return to school for another term next week, it will be business as usual.
Classes begin at both districts Wednesday, Aug. 18; while it will be a full day in Menno, Freeman Public will dismiss at 1 p.m.
Freeman Academy will begin the 2021-22 school year on Wednesday, Aug. 25.
“We’re starting this year the way we finished last year — no restrictions,” said Tom Rice, who is beginning his second year as superintendent at Menno. “But we will still conduct contact tracing.”
Jake Tietje, the new superintendent at Freeman Public, said his district will be relaying on oversight and communication from families if a student is ill or has tested positive for COVID-19. There will be no contact tracing at the school, he said.
Both Freeman Public and Menno have put into place a “safe return to in-person instruction” that acknowledges the coronavirus pandemic that dramatically impacted the second semester of the 2019-2020 school year and was a controversial disturbance last year. While there is a contingency in place should a COVID-19 outbreak impact the districts, the 2021-22 year will begin with in-person instruction and without a mask mandate.
According to Freeman’s return to in-person instruction plan:
“The Freeman Public School District will not require that students and/or employees wear a face mask at any of its educational facilities or its school buses. The use of face coverings by students and staff on school buses and within school facilities remains a recommendation of state and federal public health officials; therefore, individuals may voluntarily elect to wear a face mask within school facilities or on school buses. The District will provide face masks upon request.
“If there is a state or federal mandate that requires school districts to implement Universal & Correct Wearing of Masks, or if there is a substantial COVID outbreak, the district may look to implement said safety protocols, as needed, for a short or limited timeframe.”
Menno’s plan states that masks are not required, but “student and/or staff who wish to wear a mask will be supported for their decision. Each individual must make medical choices that best fit their lifestyle.”
Both plans outline safety precautions that have been taken in response to lingering concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, as well as guidance on health and hygiene. Students who test positive for COVID-19 will be temporarily excluded from school and school activities
And both districts are prepared to offer an alternative leaning platform if necessary.
According to Freeman’s plan:
“In the event of a local COVID-19 outbreak, regular communication, using all available modalities, with students will be required of administrators and teachers to ensure the safety, academic engagement, and wellness of students. If in-person instruction is not possible, students will receive the resources necessary to receive instruction through a distance learning platform. In addition, lunch may be provided to students through a USDA approved system. “Counselors and mental health support staff will be available for any students or staff in need of assistance.”
And, at Menno, “the district will be ready at any point to transition to online learning. Unlike the spring of 2020, more preparation was implemented during the 2021 year and students are more capable of utilizing the online tools. All students, parents, teachers, staff and administration will need to be able to support this method from Aug. 18 through May 12.
A disclaimer at the conclusion of Freeman’s back-to-school plan, which was approved by the school board on Monday night, Aug. 9, reads: “This plan is subject to change based on updated South Dakota Department of Health and CDC guidelines. Any recommendations for a return to strict safety protocols deemed necessary will be brought to Freeman School School for action and will be communicated to staff and families.”