Milbank School Employees Declared Critical Workers

Milbank School Employees
Declared Critical Workers
Starting a new school year during the coronavirus pandemic has provided challenges for the Milbank School District, but thus far the administration is pleased with the situation according to Justin Downes, superintendent. He gave a COVID update at the board of education regular meeting Monday, September 14, in the board room at the high school.
Three students have tested positive for COVID since the start of the school year, but no new cases have been reported recently. “No students who came in close contact with the infected students have contracted the virus,” reported Downes.
There has been a case in all three of the schools, but the principals of each school praised the staff, parents and students for adjusting to the situation. “I want to publicly acknowledge the work of the staff, students and families who are adjusting very well to the situation,” said Kris Evje, middle school principal. “We’ve made this work. We’ve had bumps, and knew we would have them but it hasn’t derailed us.”
Dan Snaza, high school principal, is impressed with the reaction from the students. “The kids are awesome and following social distancing guidelines,” he noted. “We are proud of the kids and their parents and appreciate the trust they put in us during this situation.”
Currently 64 of the district’s students are utilizing distance learning from home which has brought some challenges. “We had some issues obtaining software licenses and materials at the beginning, but we worked through the challenges and things are going good,” observed Dave Graf, elementary principal.
Although the number of cases of the virus in the school remains low, the district continues to be proactive and the board approved a motion that declared all Milbank School District employees critical infrastructure workers. This action will give the district more flexibility should the number of cases rise requiring more staff members to quarantine. Declaring the workers critical allows the district to deviate from the CDC quarantine guidelines which recommends 14 days quarantine after a close contact with a positive COVID case.
“According to data if someone has not contracted the virus within  seven days after coming in close contact with it, there is a 90 percent chance they won’t get it,” said Downes. Using the critical worker guidelines, the district could allow employees to return to work before the 14 days is up if they are asymptomatic and other precautions are followed.
“I hope we don’t need to use it, but every person in the district is critical and we can’t operate without the staff,” said Downes. The provision states that the employees may return to work before the 14-day period is over, but it does not require them to return. Downes noted the decision would be up to the employee.
Downes revealed that several schools in the state could not conduct in-person classes because of staffing issues. There were not enough substitutes to fill in for employees who were quarantined. It is not an issue in the Milbank School District at present, but Downes believes taking this action may alleviate staffing issues in the future.
The action can be revisited in the future and adjustments made to the guidelines.
– Debbie Hemmer