How badly did online learning go during our coronavirus spring? So badly, says Lead-Deadwood superintendent Dr. Dan Leikvold, that his school had ten times as many students flunk enough classes to lose eligibility for fall sports and thus needs to suspend its stricter eligibility policy and default to the the state’s looser academic eligibility requirements:
School board member Tim Madsen, who made the successful motion to follow Leikvold’s recommendation, asked if the eligibility numbers prior to the closure had been reviewed and if the students were eligible prior to the closure.
Leikvold said that yes, the students were eligible prior to the closure.
“I don’t have the numbers for sure, but it’s probably 10 times more that are ineligible if we go with our policy, rather than the state’s policy,” he said. “That’s never happened.”
Leikvold suggested that, then, in the fall, the school district returns to its own policy [Jaci Conrad Pearson, “L-D Schools Address Academic Eligibility Affected by Covid-19 Closure,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2020.07.01].
Lead-Deadwood’s policy requires students to earn passing grades in six courses each quarter. The South Dakota High School Activities Association requires four passing grades per semester (technically, the student must earn two full credits in the semester preceding participation: see SDHSAA Bylaws, Chapter 1, Part IV, Section 1.D.1).
Dr. Leikvold does express confidence that if coronavirus does require remote learning this fall, teachers will be able to apply what they learned this spring to do better:
Leikvold said that remote learning will be more effective next fall than it was last spring.
“I’m confident we’ll learn what we did right, what we did not so well, and fix it,” he said. “I think students will be more cognizant of the need to stay abreast of their work. They just can’t not engage. I think parts of the last 10 weeks is a big do-over. We learned a lot” [Conrad Peterson, 2020.07.01].
Meanwhile, downhill from Lead-Deadwood, Meade schools plan to start with face-to-face instruction this fall, but they will be starting a week later to give teachers and students more time to recover from the Sturgis Rally:
The Meade School Board voted unanimously Monday to push back the start of in-service for teachers from Aug. 25 to Aug. 31, and the start of classes for students and staff from Aug. 31 to Sept. 8 following the Labor Day holiday.
School board members are concerned that with Sturgis hosting the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally amid the COVID-19 global pandemic there are chances of a spike in cases in the community just before the start of school.
Moving the start dates back gives both teachers and students at least two weeks following the Rally before they would gather again in school buildings [Deb Holland, “Meade School District Pushes Back School Start Date,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2020.07.02].
No one in Sturgis, Lead, or any other school district knows whether our kids will spend their first day of the 2020–2021 school year in the classroom or at home on the Internet. But those tentupled flunkers in Lead, the kids whose parents have to stick around to scrub the Sturgis sidewalks, and all other South Dakota students and teachers had better be ready for some amount of online learning this fall.