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Aug. 2020  
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SECRETARY’S COLUMN: Back to school: Districts up to the challenge

First, foremost, and finally, thank you. As you make plans, adjust plans, then make new plans for this highly unusual school year, I am constantly reminded of your dedication to South Dakota students. We have a vital job, one I'm certainly glad you're doing, as no one else would be better at it than you who care so deeply about the success and well being of our students.

At the Department of Education, we remain dedicated to providing resources and guidance to assist you in navigating this challenging year. Please avail yourself of the daily office hours we, along with the Department of Health, hold for superintendents and school nurses to answer questions about handling positive cases and close contacts in your schools. Check our Starting Well webpage regularly to keep track of the latest information and updates. And if you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to enroll your district in the sentinel surveillance testing program. This program can play a crucial role in helping you stay on top of COVID-19 in your district.

There's no denying, you are being asked to do a lot. Managing COVID-19 precautions is one more thing on the plates of school administrators. I’m sure you never thought you would know so much about contact tracing, quarantine, isolation, and PPE. This situation is immensely complex and can move quickly. Yet, every time, there you are: logging in for the office hours and other webinars, listening, processing, asking questions. Because you know how vital it is to do everything possible to educate kids and keep them safe and healthy.

School districts across the state have begun opening their doors again, and that is exciting.

What stands out most, though, is the sheer resilience of educators, students, and families. This year will require tremendous flexibility, patience, creativity, and perseverance. I know you are up to the task. So again, thank you. Keep up the great work.


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