MENNO -- Tom Rice was driving home from a superintendents meeting in Mitchell Wednesday when he got the call that a student at Menno High School tested positive for COVID-19.
According to Rice, one student at Menno has tested positive and has not been on campus since Aug. 28. For confidentiality reasons, Rice didn't say how many students are now in quarantine after being in close contact, but it has resulted in the postponement of three volleyball games in the next 14 days as students quarantine.
The student that tested positive, Rice said, is not a volleyball player, but shared classes with members of the volleyball team and the sport is deemed a moderate-risk activity for COVID-19, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations and South Dakota High School Activities Association.
As a result, Menno’s game against Freeman Academy/Marion on Thursday, along with a game at Ethan on Sept. 14 and a home game against Howard on Sept. 15 have been rescheduled to dates to be determined. No other sporting events have been impacted.
“We literally went through the seating charts, walked into every room and literally measured in a 6-foot radius,” Rice said. “We said, ‘All right, here’s where they would be considered close contacts as through the guidelines we’re seeing through the (Centers of Disease Control and Prevention), the SDHSAA and Department of Education.’ Anybody that is within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more can be considered a close contact.”
Rice personally contacted the parents of students deemed within close contact and the South Dakota Department of Health, informed the Menno Board of Education and discussed the procedures moving forward.
He did not rule out deeming other students to have been in close contact, but none have been suggested as of Thursday.
“This is an ever-changing situation, so if other people need to be added, so be it,” Rice said. “At the end of the day, we’re going to come out better for it. I’m a big believer in taking care of one another. We don’t chastise, we don’t set other people apart -- we take care of everybody in our community.”
Because the volleyball games were canceled due to COVID-19 spread, they can be considered ‘no contests’ if the teams involved cannot find dates to reschedule the contests later in the season, per SDHSAA guidelines.
“We have to remember that this is through no fault of any one person,” Rice said. “It’s not like we’re trying to do this on purpose. This is just an unfortunate situation that has occurred, we’re all learning for the first time on how to handle it and safety is still the No. 1 issue for our constituents.”
Rice says Menno can adapt for students needing or desiring to use distance learning, but a greater number of positive cases would be needed to consider closing the school for in-person learning because of COVID-19.
Prior to the start of the school year, the Menno Board of Education considered a face covering mandate for students and teachers, but ultimately voted to make mask use a personal choice. Rice has not heard of any calls to revisit the policy.
“One kid is not going to shut us down,” Rice said. “We have other contingencies in place that will be discussed with the school board if we get there. I know of schools that have had five or six cases and their doors are still open. They are following the same procedures that we are.”