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Can COVID closures impact student education?

An opened stop sign on a school bus.
An opened stop sign on a school bus.(Jeffrey Lindblom)
Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 6:52 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Before the start of the 2021-2022 school year, 52 local medical professionals sent a letter to the Rapid City School Board, warning there could be a massive COVID surge without the proper prevention measures in place.

The board, including a handful of new members who were swept into office last year on a highly-politicized platform opposing mask mandates and widespread distance learning, ultimately voted down many of those proposed mitigation measures.

Over four months into the school year, some classrooms across the city are closed due to a surge in COVID-19 cases among students and staff , as more than 10-percent of the RCAS workforce is either out with COVID, or under quarantine.

Melanie Allen is the mother of two teens that attend Central High School and says, “it’s hard because it feels like they’re not learning like we learned, and they’re going to fall behind,” because e-learning is a different experience.

“It’s not as easy for them to communicate with the teachers. It’s always like,” explains Allen, “‘Look online!’”

She says things like whiteboards and classroom interaction feel like they can be labeled as the old times, “because it gets kind of boring just looking on a computer all the time.”

She says she sees that through her son, since “he’s had a hard time adjusting to it, and he’s voiced it quite a bit.”

Allen explains some decisions are hard as a parent, because “you’re scared to send your kids to school.” She says even if your kid is sick, and tests negative for COVID-19, you never really know.

“Then, they got to quarantine. Then,” Allen says, “they miss what they do learn in school, and that’s when they have to go back online again and teach themselves pretty much.”

She says going back and forth between the two is a tough learning environment, “because you don’t have the teacher right there with you,” and the online and physical learning worlds don’t accommodate one another as “[they’re] not the same.”

She knows this isn’t easy for teachers either, “but, it’s really hard on the kids. I really feel bad for them.”

KOTA Territory News reached out the Rapid City Area School District and didn’t receive a response.

“We’re all busy,” says Allen, “parents are busy and we’re trying to keep up with everything also.”

She says it would be nice to be better kept in the loop, but that things like closures no longer come as a surprise, “because it’s just been chaos for the last couple years.”

Looking to the future, she’s hopeful that her kids will get the chance to experience all of the high school milestones they should.

“Yeah,” says Allen through a smile, “it’ll be okay.”

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