Andes Central to require doctor slips for voluntary remote learning
Decision will help ensure students attend in-person classes when possible, superintendent says
LAKE ANDES — The Andes Central School District will require students to obtain a medical slip from their doctor in order to take part in voluntary remote learning when the second semester of the 2020-21 school year begins.
The decision was made by the Andes Central Board of Education earlier this week.
Like many school districts in South Dakota, Andes Central has strived to remain open for live learning since the beginning of the 2020-21 school year and has implemented a number of safety protocols designed to protect students and staff from COVID-19, which has disrupted life and business across the country since early this year.
The district, which has about 320 students enrolled, allows students who are concerned about attending classes at the school to attend classes virtually even when in-person classes are being held. Following the school board’s decision earlier this week, a medical slip from a doctor will be required for students to take part in voluntary remote learning beginning in the second semester.
It’s a step that will help ensure students take part in in-person classes when it’s reasonably safe for them to do so, said Cheryl Thaler, superintendent of the Andes Central School District.
“For those students who are choosing remote learning for a long period of time, they will be asked to bring a slip that the child has a compromising health condition or that someone in the family does,” Thaler said.
The board decision will help ensure students are attending in-person classes whenever it is reasonably safe for them to do so, Thaler said.
“We just want to make sure that if kids are in remote learning, it’s because of the fear of the risk of exposure. It’s much more challenging to stay caught up in a remote setting than when they’re face-to-face with their teachers,” Thaler said.
The requirement will take effect Jan. 4, the projected start date for the second semester and is expected to run through the remainder of the school year.
The calendar has already been re-written this year for Andes Central. The district had to move to full remote learning this past week to accommodate for several staff members who had tested positive or were in quarantine. That was after the district delayed the start of the year by a week for similar reasons, but Thaler characterized the school year as going "relatively well" to this point.
“We had to delay the (start of the school year) for one week due to a couple of staff quarantines, but since then we’ve been holding our own,” Thaler said. “We did have to go to remote learning this past week, and that was due to staff positives and quarantines, but we are looking at returning to face-to-face learning starting Monday.”
She said district students have been good about following other district safety protocols, which helps the district maintain an environment where students can get the best educational experience possible. The district requires masks when social distancing is not possible, such as standing in line for lunch, and has sanitizing stations and social distancing markers on the floor throughout district buildings.
“Our students have been really good about wearing masks. They’ve adapted to that change,” Thaler said. “(And) I would say for the most part, the parents are supportive of our changes.”
The district continues to deal with other issues common among South Dakota schools this year. All athletic events scheduled to take place the past week were canceled when the district moved to full remote learning earlier this week, and a Veteran’s Day program was also canceled due to the switch.
But Thaler said that the district will continue to do everything it can to ensure a safe environment for its students and teachers while striving to maintain in-person classes as much as possible.
“My goal is to keep our students in face-to-face classes as much as possible,” Thaler said.