The Mitchell Board of Education on Monday night approved guidelines for winter activities, including fine arts.
The board approved the guidelines on a 5-0 vote after discussion on the subject. The board met via virtual format for the first time since May for the meeting.
The guidelines, which mostly follow the template from the South Dakota High School Activities Association, dictate protocols throughout the winter activities season until early April, when spring sports will get underway. Updated guidelines from the SDHSAA are expected to be announced prior to that slate of activities.
“(The winter sports activities guidelines) are very similar to what we adopted for the fall activities, and those in general went pretty well,” Joe Graves, superintendent for the Mitchell School District, told the board at the meeting.
Cory Aadland, activities director for the Mitchell School District, agreed that the fall protocols put in place worked reasonably well, and he expects those put in place for the winter activities schedule will have a similar success rate.
“I think we have successfully proved out a number of these things and hope to have a similar amount of success for the winter activities,” Aadland said.
Some of the guidelines for winter activities include:
Four tiers of attendance will continue to be observed, with Tier 1 representing open attendance and Tier 4 being no fans. Mitchell operated for all of the fall season in Tier 2, which allows MHS student body attendance and each participant receiving four vouchers to exchange for tickets to attend games.
All spectators will be required to wear masks at Mitchell home events.
In wrestling, tournaments will be held with fewer teams. While the state maximum is eight teams per tournament, Mitchell will limit its annual Jerry Opbroek Invitational to six teams due to facility limitations.
Gymnastics meets will be limited to four-team pods, similar to how cheer and dance operated during the fall season.
If show choir competitions are held in Mitchell, groups will arrive, compete and leave. Competitions will not include a finals-type format.
Graves indicated that the guidelines remain a flexible document, with either the SDHSAA or the school district able to adjust procedures as they see fit based on any number of factors, including the current local and state COVID-19 climate and advice from health care professionals. Potential changes could come when the time for state tournaments or championships arrive, Graves said.
“They have left the door open for changes if they have to make any, but at this point they’ve established this document,” Graves said.
Matt Christiansen, a member of the board, asked if there were any plans to expand YouTube or other streaming options for spectators that may want to take in events from home, with the implementation of attendance caps limiting how many can show up for any one event.
Aadland said they have expanded some viewing options, though they plan to look at doing more to promote those streams so that the public is aware of them.
“We do (stream) where we can. We added some capabilities through Mitchell Telecom in the fall. We had it this fall for volleyball and soccer, and we’ve added a camera that we used at the Corn Palace that will give us better access to sub-varsity basketball games. We have done some things to increase some of that exposure. We’re not covering everything at this point, but we’re covering more than we have in past years,” Aadland said.
Aadland said he would look into providing easy links to streams on the school event calendar online. Graves also said that technology has been added at the PAC to enhance viewership where possible, though copyright issues for some performances can be problematic when it comes to streaming rights.
The district would adopt the new CDC guidelines for quarantines when it comes to activities, at least to start the latest activities session, if and when the SDHSAA approves it, Graves said.
According to the CDC, quarantines can now end after day 10 without testing and if no symptoms have been reported during daily monitoring. If diagnostic testing resources are sufficient and available, quarantine can end after day 7 if a diagnostic specimen tests negative and if no symptoms were reported during daily monitoring. The specimen may be collected and tested within 48 hours before the time of planned quarantine discontinuation, but quarantine cannot be discontinued earlier than day 7.
Lindsey Musick, another member of the board, asked if the district guidelines would follow the SDHSAA on such a recommendation should the association approve it. Graves said the district likely would, though that aspect would be another judgement call for the district based on local conditions and the opinion of health experts. If those entities find it appropriate to remain at the 14-day quarantine period, the district would follow suit he said. Until the SDHSAA makes a formal announcement, the district will follow the 14-day quarantine period recommendation.
“We would make the change to that as well. But I know the SDHSAA is making that adjustment (to the new quarantine period), but I haven’t seen it come forward in writing. My assumption is we will stay at 14 days until the SDHSAA states otherwise,” Graves said.
Musick also asked about how live singing performances would be handled, particularly the show choir, citing a study on the spread of COVID-19 and vocal performances. Graves said for such live performances, masks would not be required for that singular performance, though masks would otherwise generally be required.
Board members asked Graves and Aadland to discuss the matter further with Nick McGraw, director of the Mitchell Show Choir and report back to the board on the matter.
“I just want to make sure the details are nailed down and want to make sure they’re safely participating and that the guidance is there,” Musick said.
As part of the board’s consent agenda, the following personnel items were approved by the board:
New certified hires: Esther Witte as 8th grade head boys basketball coach compensated at $2,517, effective for the remainder of the school year; Anthony de la Torre as 8th grade assistant boys basketball coach at $1,819, effective for the remainder of the school year.
New classified hires: Jessica Cross, general food service worker at MHS compensated at $13 per hour, effective Nov. 16.
Transfer: Dave Brooks, from assistant girls basketball coach to sophomore girls basketball coach and Jaime Neuendorf, from sophomore girls basketball coach to assistant girls basketball coach, effective Nov. 30.
MTC new hires: Amy Swett, as admissions representative, compensated at $22,811 (through June 30, 2021), effective Dec. 7; Whitney Bruinsma, as student success coach, at $20,000 (through June 30, 2021), effective Jan. 4, 2021; Kasey Thomas, as radiologic technology clinical adjunct instructor for the spring 2021 semester at $4,760, effective Jan. 11, 2021; Janet Nicolaus as adjunct instructor for spring semester 2021 at $4,500, effective Jan. 11, 2021.
MTC Resignation: Paula Morgan, as staff accountant, effective Jan. 1, 2021.
Also at the Monday meeting, the board:
Approved June 8, 2021 as the joint city/school election date for any potential Board of Education seats.
Heard a review of the Mitchell School District Report card from Superintendent Joe Graves.
Heard board superintendent and board member reports.