The plan to return to face-to-face teaching and learning at colleges in SouthDakota in August is causing great concern among faculty and staff. Here isSouth Dakota News Watch reporter Bart Pfankuch with a report.Despite extensive preparation and a new mandate that masks be wornindoors, many university employees in South Dakota are worried thatbringing thousands of young adults from across the state, country and worldtogether in campus classrooms, residence halls and buildings will lead toCOVID-19 outbreaks among the staff, students or their families.
A petition seeking to give students and faculty the right to decide on theirown to teach and learn remotely has garnered more than 100 signatures.Many are concerned that even if protections against the virus are present inclassrooms and campus buildings, students will create risks on their own byliving active and social lifestyles, gathering in groups and by not takingpreventive steps against spreading the virus in their personal time.
The Board of Regents, which governs the university system, announced onMay 1 that all six universities and two special schools in the system wouldreturn to in-person teaching on August 19...and on July 22, they voted torequire masks indoors.Still, many are worried that it won’t be enough to protect students andfaculty against the spread of the virus.
Regents CEO Brian Maher said he is comfortable with the safety precautionscolleges are taking, including spreading out desks in classes, increasingcleaning and use of sanitizer, isolating anyone who shows symptoms andallowing employees with serious medical conditions to teach remotely.Maher also notes that officials will keep a close eye on the virus once classesbegin and will not hesitate to change course, including shifting back to onlineteaching, if outbreaks do occur.
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