SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Gov. Kristi Noem said the consequences of children not being in school outweigh the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

Noem made statements supporting the reopening of schools in South Dakota during a press conference in Sioux Falls on Tuesday, July 28.

Noem referenced research and studies that included JAMA Pediatrics: Characteristics and Outcomes of Children with COVID-19 Infection Admitted to US and Canadian Pediatric Intensive Care Units, American Academy of Pediatrics: COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry, Toronto Sick Kids: COVID-19: Recommendations for School Reopening and Dr. Scott W. Atlas and Paul E. Peterson: Science Says: ‘Open the Schools’.

During the press conference, Noem said that as much as 30% of students did not report back to their teachers last spring when COVID-19 forced schools to close their doors and adopt a online distance learning system.

The negative impact of distance education for children who are at risk of neglect or abuse within their homes were also cited by Noem as reasons for keeping schools open this upcoming school year.

“We cannot sacrifice the education, emotional, physical and social well being of our kids. The risks of COVID are too minimal to risk them staying home,” Noem said.

“Kids thrive on routine and being in a supportive social environment. Long term remote learning cannot replace those needs.”

Noem added that by losing the human connections a school setting offers, a child can experience increased stress, anxiety and depression.

“Not all kids are in safe home environments. For some students, schools are the safest and most predictable place they can spend their time,” Noem said.

Noem will also not require masks to be worn by students in the state’s K-12 public school system.

“The doctors say it is impractical for a child to wear a mask for the duration of the school day,” Noem said, adding that young students tend to play with their masks which could increase the spread of germs.

“The vast majority of teachers and staff are not in the high risk, vulnerable population category. If they are, there are many options available to them,” Noem said, saying that the state is planning to allocate $47 million to schools to help them safely reopen this fall.

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