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USC decides to stay with distance learning

Board votes to extend model until Christmas break, then relook

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Dec 6, 2020

The United South Central School Board met at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 1, to review their current distance learning model and discuss the possibility of changing to the hybrid model. Pictured above, left to write, are board chairman Dale Stevermer, superintendent Keith Fleming and board member Tom Legred.

Students in the United South Central School District will continue distance learning at least until the Christmas break following a vote by the USC School Board at a special meeting on Dec. 1.

“We had originally decided to distance learn through Dec. 4,” USC superintendent Keith Fleming said. “But as we monitor the situation and look at the trendline of COVID cases in our county, the administration team recommends we stay in the distance learning model.”

Fleming noted the number of cases in the county is definitely trending upward.

“Plus, we are just coming back from Thanksgiving and do not yet know if that will result in a rise in the number of positive cases,” Fleming commented. “We are also taking into account the number of positive cases we have in the school.”

The original recommendation had been to keep all students in distance learning until Jan. 11, which is one week after the resumption of school following the scheduled Christmas break. Following discussion, the board decided to wait until their next regularly scheduled board meeting, on Dec 15, to consider a proposal concerning when the kids might be able to return to the school building.

“I would like to get the kids back in school as soon as we can safely do so,” board member Tom Legred stated. “I am especially concerned about the elementary kids being out of the classroom for so long.”

Other board members also expressed their unease with the current situation.

“My concern is for the special ed students,” board member Mike Schrader said. “They are struggling not being in school.”

Board member Diana Brooks added her thoughts to the discussion.

“There are also straight A students who are not doing well now,” Brooks said. “But, I also know at least three teachers with underlying health conditions who are concerned about coming back too soon.”

High school principal Julie Stauber was on hand to give a report on the older students.

“It is going very well for the most part for the students in grades 9-12,” Stauber told the board. “Seventh and eighth grades are a little iffy.”

“By waiting until the Dec. 15 board meeting to set a target return date, we will have a better idea of how Thanksgiving affected the COVID numbers,” board chairman Dale Stevermer noted. “And we can set our target date for students coming back to the school at the meeting.”