Mitchell School Board to consider preliminary approval of reopening plan

Masks for students expected to be recommended, not mandated

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The Mitchell Board of Education is expected to consider preliminary approval of plans for reopening school for the 2020-21 school year, as well as continue discussions on mask requirements and activities training at its next meeting.

The meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday, July 13 in the commons at Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy.

Joe Graves, superintendent for the Mitchell School District, said while the reopening plans are still being developed and under review, he will be asking the board for preliminary approval of the document.

“We are now seeking preliminary approval of this document. I say ‘preliminary’ because some aspects of the plan are still under review, particularly specific implementation at building and classroom levels, and because changing local, state and national conditions may and likely will require revisions to the plan going forward,” Graves said in his notes provided in the agenda. “As with the issue of summer training activities, it is my plan to continue to bring the plan to each board meeting in the future, until such time as it becomes moot.”

Part of that reopening document addresses the issue of students wearing masks. The document states that mask-wearing will be a recommendation, not a requirement.


“While students will not be required to wear a mask during the school day, we are strongly encouraging that they do so. The CDC, South Dakota Department of Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics and our local health care consultant, Dr. Hilary Rockwell, have all strongly recommended masks as the best, practical means of preventing transmission of COVID-19 and allowing schools to remain physically open for students,” the document states. “Thus, if most or all of our students can voluntarily wear masks, we can better protect the health of all of our students and staff and improve the likelihood we can remain physically in school.”

Also included for the board to review is a statement, information from a group called Mitchell Kernel Parents Against Mandatory Masks. The group is opposed to requiring masks/cloth face masks for all Mitchell school students and staff, citing the procedures as “socially, emotionally, psychologically and physically damaging to our children; moreover, there is no solid science to support their implementation.”

The document is signed by more than 60 people and also includes personal comments from parents on their concerns about requiring students to wear masks.

The first day of school is scheduled for Aug. 19.


The board is expected to approve the following personnel moves:

  • The new classified hires of Patricia Sides, paraeducator at Longfellow Elementary, $11.26, effective Aug. 4; Mercedes Riggs, paraeducator at Mitchell Middle School, $11.26, effective Aug. 19; Jennifer Buchholtz, paraeducator at Longfellow Elementary, effective Aug. 4 and Haylee Constant, paraeducator at Longfellow Elementary, $11.26, effective Aug. 4.

  • The new certified hires of Danieka Novak, 21st Century co-coordinator, $10,999; McKenzie Mertens, freshman girls basketball coach, $2,601; Karli O’Connor, 8th assistant girls basketball and 8th assistant volleyball coach, $3,461 and Hallie Tate, English teacher at Mitchell Middle School, $51,200. All hires are effective for the 2020-21 school year.

  • The transfers of Allison Pierson, Mitchell Middle School adviser, $1,051, effective for the 2020-21 school year, and Jessica Mowry, paraeducator at Longfellow Elementary to special education paraeducator at L.B. Williams Elementary, effective Aug. 2020.

  • The Mitchell Technical Institute hire of Kerry Hagemeier, accounting/business instructor, $53,000, effective Aug. 1.

  • The resignation of Beth Schneider, instructional strategist, effective July 21.

Other business

Also at the meeting, the board is expected to:


  • Reorganize for the 2020-21 school year, including assigning official depositories, nominating and election of board president and vice-president and swearing in of new or appointed board members.

  • Consider approval in the Associated School Boards of South Dakota.

  • Consider summer 2020 activities training guidelines.

  • Hold a public hearing on and approve the 2020-21 K-14 budgets.

  • Hear reports from board members and the superintendent.

Graves encourages those who plan to attend the meeting to consider maintaining social distancing practices.
“While all board meetings are fully open to the public, given current recommendations for social distancing, I have requested that any group wishing to present to the board to consider selecting leadership for those presentations in order to give full voice to their position while also limiting numbers present,” Graves wrote in the agenda.

Documents on school reopening plans, including the full statement from Kernel Parents Against Mandatory Masks, can be found in the meeting agenda at under the School Board tab.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at
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