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SD Teachers Union Says Masks Can Limit Schedule Disruptions

Union leaders say South Dakota educators and schools have seen some issues in obtaining PPE. That's why they say requiring masks in schools would be a big help in preventing the spread of COVID-19 among students and staff. (Adobe Stock)
Union leaders say South Dakota educators and schools have seen some issues in obtaining PPE. That's why they say requiring masks in schools would be a big help in preventing the spread of COVID-19 among students and staff. (Adobe Stock)
August 27, 2020

PIERRE, S.D. -- Most South Dakota students are back in class, but that hasn't erased concerns about the coronavirus spreading in schools, with some districts already altering plans due to positive cases.

Teachers union leaders say to keep kids in school, mask use is the best defense right now.

Gov. Kristi Noem had pushed for in-person learning, and essentially left it up to schools and parents to decide on asking students to wear masks.

Loren Paul, president of the South Dakota Education Association (SDEA), said for those who feel it's unnecessary to have this requirement in a school setting, they need to know more schedule disruptions will happen if preventive measures aren't fully adopted.

"It's not just getting the kids to the classroom, it's keeping them there, too," Paul said.

Mask requirements have varied by school districts across South Dakota. This week, elementary students in the Lemmon District were sent home after four staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

And the state saw a general spike in coronavirus cases this past weekend as well, prompting new concerns over community spread.

Noem has expressed doubt over the feasibility of trying to make sure that kids keep face coverings on.

Paul said even though some of their members might not want a mandate for schools, most of them do. And he said it would be a small sacrifice to keep students and staff safe.

"Even if you wear them and we're wrong and we find out they didn't help, what does that hurt?" Paul asked.

The U.S. has seen a decline in daily coronavirus cases, and public health experts credit the use of masks.

However, the experts also caution insufficient testing might also be a contributing factor.

The SDEA represents 5,900 education professionals in South Dakota.

Disclosure: South Dakota Education Association contributes to our fund for reporting on Education. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - SD