During its last school board meeting, the Dickinson School Board heard a presentation about clinical research from Jill Healy, who is the CEO for Trial Runners.

"I represent a community here in Dickinson that is concerned about COVID but also very concerned about kids getting back into the classroom," said Healy.

She said her company would create a data safety monitoring board to make recommendations on educational delivery (face-to-face, hybrid, virtual learning) based on data.

"In a charter called a DSMB, which is a Data Safety Monitoring Board, there is a chair that will look at the data and help to make recommendations," Healy said. "The objective data is analyzed against the cases of corona (COVID-19), the national cases of corona, the cases of hospitalizations, deaths in the age groups as well as staff and evaluate against a risk mitigation plan."

These research professionals would create risk variables to help the school district return students to face-to-face instruction without the fear of what could happen as a result.

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"Our statistician will discover how to do things to prevent a certain outcome. We don’t want to design something in the DSMB that only keeps kids in school or if there’s one case of COVID, that everybody goes home," Healy said. "You want to create a plan that statistically measures variables that matter."

She said possible recommendations could include continue face-to-face learning, continue face-to-face learning with suggestions or continue face-to-face learning with mandatory changes.

While the school board unanimously approved a partnership with Healy, the district is working on the details of the specific services she will provide.

"The idea is to have Jill provide our school board with additional, objective data to help them make decisions on what is in the best academic and safety interests of our students and staff," said Assistant Superintendent Keith Harris.

The school board will meet at a special board meeting on Monday, Nov. 23 to discuss returning to face-to-face delivery of instruction, full-time, which is a conversation Harris said is not new.

"We monitor the current data and collaborate with our health officials daily," Harris said. "It has always been, and continues to be the intention of the district to return to as normal of a schedule as possible just as quickly as we can while continuing to keep the health risks as low as feasible for our students and staff."