The 2019-2020 school year was certainly a first for the DPS district, who in spite of the many challenges and struggles brought by the COVID-19 pandemic found solutions to the ever changing landscape of education in the United States.

Among the many changes DPS implemented were fundamental structure and methods used to teach in remote settings; returning to full-time in-person education after months of distance learning; and offering online, in-person and full day Regional After School Program to students.

Following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and local health officials with the Southwestern District Health Unit, DPS provided a second half of the school year with limited coronavirus spread to students and staff.

As the upcoming 2021-2022 school year approaches, the DPS school board has released a draft of their Continuity Plan.

This plan outlines policies and protocols, required by the CDC and the local health officials, for the district to safely resume in-person instruction — a plan that has been debated and anticipated by members of DPS staff and area families.

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According to the draft, a requirement to review and update the plan every six months has been agreed upon in order to adjust to the rapid changes in the environment as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic.

The purpose of the plan is to mitigate risks and minimize the spread of COVID-19, and will begin with the school starting the school year at a “Level 1.”

At level 1, DPS outlined that facial coverings may be worn but will not be required of students, faculty or staff. They will, however, continue to ask students and staff that feel ill to remain home.

Cleansing and disinfecting under the new plan will continue to be performed daily, using non-irritating disinfectants when possible. Hand Hygiene, contact tracing and diagnostic screening will be performed as needed.

According to the draft, vaccinations and COVID screenings will be offered, free of charge, by the health department for anyone interested.

Under the new draft, DPS students will have the opportunity to receive free meals in accordance with the same policies as last school year and busing will be available for eligible in-town and rural students.

In a statement by DPS, the district plans to ensure that the educational needs of all students, including those on IEP’s, and special education be met regardless of the district instructional delivery model. The online academy will be an available resource for those that prefer to homeschool, as the program is committed to providing a good viable resource for the entire homeschooling community.

Concerning temperature checks, the draft states that the decision on implementation will be left in the hands of the individual school’s leadership — no information has been released concerning which schools, if any, will require them.

Individual school leadership are encouraged to make decisions with regards to protocols aimed at the health, safety and needs of their school.

Assistant Superintendent of Dickinson Public Schools, Keith Harris said he was happy with the draft.

“I feel good about the Continuity Plan and encourage the community to provide input and direction for this plan,” he said. “I also ask that if (parents) have concerns, (that they) bring those to our attention.”

Harris also said that there was definitely a “silver lining to the last 12 months.”

“We as a district became stronger,” he said. “We were able to explore newer, more flexible ways to provide a wonderful education to the students in our community.”

Harris added that he and his staff are very excited about the upcoming school year, and would like the community to “enjoy where we are with the low COVID numbers.”