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Pierre in-person classes for 2020-2021 school year still on, though different | Local News Stories

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While doing their best to ensure safety of students, teachers and staff members from COVID-19, Pierre School District officials plan to start the 2020-21 academic year with in-person instruction on Aug. 20.

An extensive survey (receiving over a 90% return rate) showed 87% of students and parents preferring a return to class. Even parents of pre-kindergarten students responded to the survey.

The remaining 13% of the students plan to stay home and use online schooling, which will feature a Pierre instructor monitoring the “Edgenuity” online program.

“The new school year is going to be interesting, with different changes and a different look, in our district,” said Dan Cronin, newly elected president of the Pierre school board said. “Some other school systems are already changing what they have sent out to parents.”

“On Aug. 20, we’re back in session. We will be faced with situations that we have never faced before,” Superintendent Kelly Glodt said.

The district has guidance from the state Department of Education and the state Department of Health on what to do when a student, or a staff member, already in the building is not feeling well. A supervised isolation room will be used until a parent can get there. Having emergency contact information on file will be a high priority.

“Normal school will be different,” Glodt said. “Parents are to do a checklist every day on the health of their student — rather than adding up all the minutes used at school to do those checklists. The stakes are higher now to stay home when sick. Mask mandates have not been finalized yet.”

“Obviously, not sending students to school is a tough decision. Though, the high school has been working on E-credits for years now, particularly on credit repair and continued learning for struggling students,” Glodt continued.

“The best scenario is keeping nine sections to every class,” Glodt said. “The student numbers are a little less (13% less) and that is good for social distancing. One of these teachers at each level — district wide — will work as the online teacher. They will offer everyday access and monitoring — personal contacts and accountability. We do not want a ‘canned’ online program. We will have a Pierre influence using live teachers.”

“Our kids do need to be in school,” Glodt said. “Otherwise, kids miss out; teachers miss out. Content is just one thing with education, which includes how to resolve conflicts and social learning. We don’t want that achievement gap to increase.”

“The toughest part is that everyone wants to know yesterday. The plan will be better, more accurate, and safer if parents and students give us a little more time to set protocols and practices,” Glodt said.

The South Dakota High School Activities Association has yet to conduct its meeting to address the extra-curricular activity protocols and “what-if” scenarios. The district’s kindergarten screening is still set for Aug. 3-5; if parents have somehow not already been contacted, they should call 605-773-7300.

During the latest meeting, district officials received eight applications for open enrollment from students outside of the district.

The survey began, “It is the goal of the Pierre School District to begin the 2020-21 school year on August 20 as originally scheduled. We continue to work on a plan for all-day in-person school available to all students, but also offer online instruction to those who prefer that option.”

The Pierre School District consists of T.F. Riggs High School, Georgia Morse Middle School, Buchanan Elementary School, Jefferson Elementary School and Kennedy Elementary School.

The survey also included some proactive steps to the new school year, such as:

Installing touchless water fixtures and toilets where manual existed in order to reduce touch points in restrooms;

Installing touchless hand sanitizer stations in each classroom and other common locations throughout the schools;

Increasing fresh air flow through HVAC systems;

Reconfiguring classrooms to maximize available space and allow more social distancing;

Eliminating mouth drinking from fountains and promoting use of individual water bottles; and

Reviewing and practicing good hygiene with students from day one, including frequent hand washing.

Stanley County

Regarding plans for those on the west side of the Missouri River, Stanley County School District Superintendent Daniel Hoey this week said, “Overall, I am very proud of our parents and staff concerning the informal ‘Return to School 2020’ meeting of parents, staff and administration, held July 14.” During the session, attendees discussed how and when — or if — to open school with “in-person” classes this fall.

The three main options discussed started with the Stanley County School District conducting classes as close to normal as possible. The second option would be for school to be completely online. What the group discussed the most was some version of blending the first two options.

School, whatever it will look like, starts Aug. 24 and runs to May 27, 2021.

“We will begin the year normally, with safeguards across the board in place,” Hoey said. “Educating students and parents has to reach success in a blended format — little bit of in-person and a little bit of online. For some areas, particularly with younger students, the online process will be more difficult. We will work with packets and our teachers. We go back to flexibility; to deliver content and lessons in multiple formats.”

In the blended option, groups of Stanley County students would “come and leave,” according to Hoey, on separate schedules. The groups would interchange schedules across the student body. For example, while one group would be in the school building in classes with teachers, the other group would be doing packets of learning online. Then the groups would flip-flop for the next period of time.

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BLM hosts job fair in Lakeland to address economic inequality

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Sara-Megan Walsh
 
| The Ledger

LAKELAND — Black Lives Matter will take a step this week toward addressing Lakeland’s racial issues that won’t involve a protest or a march.  

Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk will be holding a job fair on Wednesday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at The Dream Center, located at 635 W. 5th St. in Lakeland.

Jarvis Washington, president of BLM Restoration Polk, said the event will launch the organization’s long-term effort to address the city’s issue of economic inequality. 

“We know that the lack of jobs and lack of economic development has a direct correlation to crime and poverty,” he said. “We are inspired to create economic opportunity for our community.” 

Washington said BLM hopes to help 300-500 unemployed individuals, including those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, within the next year. While Polk County’s unemployment rate currently stands at roughly 7.3%, down from 7.9% in September, it is still more than double the rate from a year ago. 

BLM is partnering with Civitas Recruiting, founded by Lakeland resident Susan Freebern, to build connections between those disenfranchised looking for work and local businesses. 

“I like to think of it as a community-wealth building strategy,” Freebern said. 

Freebern said she focuses on using the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which offers financial incentives for companies to hire people in specific targeted groups who typically face barriers to employment. This includes individuals receiving food stamps or government assistance, veterans, and those unemployed for an extended period of time. 

On Wednesday, BLM will help screen candidates that meet these criteria who Civitas Recruiting will then help place into jobs. Freebern said many of the positions she has available include manual labor but she expects others to open up after the holidays. The jobs offered will pay at least $15 an hour, according to Freebern.  

If an individual referred by BLM to Civitas for a job is hired, the nonprofit organization will receive a small donation to help fund its future efforts. 

Washington said BLM will be there to support individuals by linking them to fiscal educational resources and credit repair agencies to help them get back on a road to fiscal stability. 

“We can’t allow them to continue down the same path, it’s not creating success,” he said. “We need to provide the tools and resources to help and model them into better people — it’s always been part of our mission statement.” 

This week’s job fair is the first of a series of events that BLM hopes to plan with Civitas Recruiting to help those unemployed and lift them out of living paycheck-to-paycheck, or worse, out of poverty. 

“This is our answer to what comes next,” Washington said. “What comes next is creating opportunities.” 

Those unable to attend Wednesday’s job fair can visit BLM’s new website at www.blmrpolk.org for more information and to signup for future events. Washington said he hopes to hold recruitment and job fairs approximately every two months. 

Sara-Megan Walsh can be reached at swalsh@theledger.com or 863-802-7545. Follow on Twitter @SaraWalshFL. 

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China to take steps to improve bad faith deterrent mechanism

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China will adopt policy steps to optimize the mechanism for deterring acts of bad faith and refine the social credit system to underpin the development of the socialist market economy, the State Council’s executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang decided on Wednesday.

“In recent years, China’s social credit system has continued to develop. A market economy relies on credit, and a credit-based economy must follow the rule of law. Work in this regard shall be effectively carried out pursuant to laws and regulations,” Li said.

Those at the Wednesday meeting decided on measures to refine the bad-faith deterrent mechanism to promote the orderly and healthy development of the social credit system. The principles include adhering to laws and regulations, protecting rights and interests, taking a prudent and appropriate approach and implementing list-based management.

The scope and procedures of credit information shall be formulated in a science-based way. Including certain behaviors in public credit information will require strictly following laws and regulations and a catalog management approach. Such information will be made accessible to the public.

Administrative departments must determine acts of bad faith on the basis of legally binding documents. The scope and procedures for sharing credit information shall be standardized. The principle of legality and necessity shall be observed when deciding whether and to what extent credit information is shared and disclosed. Such decisions shall be made clear when compiling the credit information catalog.

The meeting underlined the need to strengthen information security and privacy protection. Access to and procedures for credit information inquiries shall be strictly enforced. Leaking, tampering, damaging or stealing credit information or utilizing credit information for personal gains will be seriously investigated and dealt with. Illegal collection and transaction of credit information will be strictly cracked down on.

“In the development of the social credit system, it is important to pay attention to protecting personal privacy and trade secrets. Credit reference shall be conducted in accordance with law, with science-based scope and definition and appropriate penalties. Information must be used in a safe and secure manner,” Li said.

Identification of list of entities with serious acts of bad faith will be better regulated. The list shall be limited to those who put public health and safety in grave jeopardy, seriously sabotage the fair market competition order or disrupt normal social order. The list shall not be willfully expanded without authorization.

Punishment against bad-faith acts shall be enforced in accordance with laws and regulations, to make sure that penalties are meted out commensurate with dishonest behaviors. Disciplinary measures taken against entities with serious dishonest behaviors that reduce their rights or increase their duties shall be based on facts of bad faith and on laws and regulations. Punishments should be appropriate and not be added or increased at will. Financial institutions, credit service agencies, industry associations, chambers of commerce and news media should not be forced to punish entities with serious acts of bad faith.

A credit repair mechanism, which is conducive to self-correction, will be established. Entities will be allowed to fix negative credit records, unless otherwise stipulated by laws and regulations, should they correct dishonest behaviors and eliminate adverse impact. Relevant departments shall remove entities, who meet credit repair eligibility, from the list in a timely manner.

All localities and relevant departments shall promptly overhaul measures that have been rolled out for the determination, recording, disclosure and punishment of bad-faith acts, and those that do not meet the requirements shall be regulated in a timely manner.

The meeting also decided on measures to advance high-quality development of the credit reference sector. Cross-sectoral and cross-regional connectivity of credit information involving finance, government affairs, and public services will be promoted as provided by law. Disclosure and orderly utilization of data in government departments will be promoted in faster pace.

Market access of individual credit reference agencies will be promoted in an active yet prudent manner, and openness of the credit reference sector will be scaled up. Matching regulations and supporting institutions for the credit reference sector shall be improved and accountability mechanism strengthened. Fraudulent credit rating shall be strictly punished according to law.




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Developers plan 13 new homes in Muskegon Heights to help ‘people of color bring their community back’

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MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, MI – Two pastors from Indiana have a plan to build 13 new homes in the city of Muskegon Heights as part of an initiative to help “people of color bring their community back.”

The Rev. Rodney Lynch and the Rev. Willie Thompson, both of West Lafayette, Indiana, recently purchased 13 vacant lots from the city on which they plan to build single-family homes.

Thompson grew up in Muskegon Heights.

“He remembers when it was a thriving community — in the years he grew up there — and he sees it now,” Lynch told MLive. “We were talking one day, and he said this city is under new leadership, and because there’s new leadership, there’s new hope.”

Troy Bell became the city’s new manager at the beginning of this year. One of his early initiatives was a plan to formalize and add development requirements to the city’s tradition of selling city-owned vacant lots for $100 each.

Lynch and Thompson purchased 13 lots on Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, McIlwraith, Elwood and Superior streets.

Calling themselves Muskegon Heights Investors LLC, Lynch and Thompson will look for builders to construct “high quality” homes with sale prices of about $100,000 to $130,000, Lynch said.

Home buyers will be provided “wrap around services,” such as help preparing their credit for home purchase and education on how to properly maintain their properties, Lynch said.

“I’m more interested in the humanitarian part of this — helping quote, unquote minorities rebuild their own community (and) be a part of bringing their community back,” he said.

Under the city’s lot sale policy, lots are sold for $100 each and purchasers are required to pay for document and other fees, estimated at about $150 per lot. They also must pay three years’ worth of taxes, estimated at about $270 per lot.

Construction on the lots is to begin within two years of purchase, and owners must maintain the property, or it will revert to the city through a quick claim deed.

Requirements include planting grass and shrubs, removing dead trees and weeds and keeping structures in good repair.

The objectives of the lot-sales program are raising revenue, reducing crime and blight and encouraging development in the city.

Lynch said he visited Muskegon Heights twice and was dismayed by some of what he saw, but also encouraged by the “great opportunity for people of color to bring their community back.”

“When I first came up there, I was like ‘Wow, the city needs help.’ It’s depleted. The roads are bad, a lot of boarded-up houses,” Lynch said. “But I said, ‘Yeah, this is a great opportunity right here.’”

Bell said he has worked for several months with the Indiana developers as the city refined its process for approving lot sales.

“I appreciate their commitment to the community,” Bell said. ”I appreciate them trying to be part of the renaissance of this community.”

The “key to spurring economic development” in Muskegon Heights is improving the city’s housing stock which has an average age of 100 years, Bell said. New homes have not built in the city since 2014, and that was just three new homes, he said.

The city owns 350 vacant lots and the Muskegon County Land Bank owns another 450, Bell said.

While Muskegon Heights has been selling vacant lots for $100, the process was informal and didn’t require development of the lots, he said. That resulted in many of the lots being used to park vehicles, and often owners didn’t pay the property taxes and the land reverted to the city, Bell said.

“That’s why the city is barely making it by now — because it has no tax base,” Bell said.

He said he has encouraged builders to shoot for “high quality” homes and to include credit repair, first-time home buyer and homeowner education programs like the ones Lynch said his group is planning.

The next “phase” of the city’s plan to improve housing involves tackling renovations of boarded-up and vacant homes and better enforcement of building codes, Bell said.

The city of Muskegon recently embarked on an ambitious effort to improve its housing stock by encouraging developers to build single family homes. The $49.5 million plan to build 240 homes in the city over the next three years involves the use of Brownfield tax credits to help make the homes affordable.

Among those are 13 homes under construction on Webster Avenue between Eighth and Ninth streets near the city’s downtown.

Also on MLive:

Muskegon police identify shooting victim, look for killer

Frauenthal Center’s $7 million preservation campaign looks to ‘the next 90 years’

Man rescued from Lake Michigan after being swept off breakwall

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