CORRECTION: An earlier version of this newsletter incorrectly stated which way to set clocks for Daylight Saving Time. You should set your clock forward an hour and brace for losing an hour of sleep.

Happy Wednesday! Megan here.

It's been a year since South Dakota saw its first case of COVID-19. And you're not alone if you're having a hard time emotionally processing the last 365 days.

I find myself struggling to find the words to really summarize a year of mourning, isolation, frustration and fear.

What I do know is that the end is in sight. More than 3 in 10 South Dakotans has been vaccinated, life is returning slowly back to "normal," and the spring weather seems to be a harbinger of better days to come.

But we'd be remiss if we didn't acknowledge the lives lost in the last year. You'll see a lot of numbers here today, but each of those numbers represents a person with family, friends, coworkers and countless other ties to the Sioux Falls community. They are and will continue to be missed and grieved for years to come.

Which brings us to, news:


COVID-19 was third-leading cause of death in Sioux Falls last year

Simplified: Last year, 244 Sioux Falls residents died from COVID-19, making it the third leading cause of death in the city, according to data from the South Dakota Department of Health.

Why it matters: COVID-19 deaths in the city trailed only behind two other common causes of death: Cancer, which killed 332 Sioux Falls residents, and heart disease, which killed 300.

  • COVID-19 deaths in Sioux Falls made up approximately 15 percent of the 1,680 deaths caused by COVID in South Dakota, according to the health department’s data.
  • Sioux Falls fared better than both the state and nation in terms of the rate of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people.

Read more on the latest data here.


Hundreds more Sioux Falls parents chose home-schooling during pandemic

Simplified: The number of home-school families has been steadily increasing since 2017, but in 2020, Sioux Falls saw a spike in parents opting for the alternative education.

Why it matters: More than 230 students switched to home-schooling in the last year. The reasons vary, but some parents say frustrations with virtual learning were enough to tip the scales in favor of home-schooling.

  • It also matters to the Sioux Falls School District, which sees a financial hit whenever enrollment goes down.
  • Further complicating the matter are potential changes to home-schooling requirements at the state level. A measure to loosen requirements and allow home-schooled kids to participate in public-school activities passed both legislative chambers and heads now to Gov. Kristi Noem's desk.
  • But some parents say the pandemic was just the straw that broke the camel's back.
"Once the pandemic hit ... I think that was the push that just sent me over the edge," said Sioux Falls parent Maureen Patch on her decision to homeschool this year.
Sioux Falls parent Maureen Patch shows her daughter working on home-schooling
Sioux Falls parent Maureen Patch shows her daughter working on home-schooling

What happens next? It's not clear. It's possible that post-pandemic the number of home-schooled families levels back out to pre-pandemic rates. It's also possible that the trend of more home-schooling continues. It's long been a choice available to parents in South Dakota, but more of them are taking advantage of that option now.

Read more on Sioux Falls-area home-schooling trends here.


Silverstar donation to Legends scholarship helps student athletes

Simplified: Silverstar Car Wash donated $10,000 to this year's Hy-Vee Sanford Legends scholarship program, which supports students – and specifically student athletes – who've made a difference in their school and community.

Why it matters: The scholarship helps students who have made a positive impact and been a leader in enriching the lives of others, especially through athletics.

  • Recipients don't necessarily have to be athletes. Winners could also include team managers or people who maybe only participated in sports for part of their high school career.
"It’s not designed to give to the best athlete out there in our area," Legends co-founder Tim Stupka said. "It's designed to give to a student athlete that has done something special for their school, their community or the players that play around them and still be a good student."

Learn more on the Legends for Kids Scholarship – including how to apply.


Mask ordinance ends Saturday after mayor breaks tie

Simplified: Sioux Falls City Council voted 4-4 Tuesday evening to extend a penalty-less ordinance requiring masks in public places. Mayor Paul TenHaken cast the deciding "no" vote.

Why it matters: The failed measure means the city mask ordinance ends Saturday, March 13.

  • Had the measure passed, the ordinance would have extended until the most vulnerable in the city (Group 1E) were able to be vaccinated. Right now, that's expected to happen mid-April.
  • The final vote came after more than two hours of emotional public input. TenHaken himself appeared emotional as he pleaded with the community to start being kind to one another and stop being so divisive.
"If you think that mandating or not mandating a piece of cloth will all-of-a-sudden return us to a civil dialogue, that's not going to happen," TenHaken said. "What you're seeing tonight is indicative of just a rising temperature in our community."

Stuff to watch

  • Daylight Saving Time starts Sunday. Don't forget to set your clocks forward an hour.
  • Eating lunch with your kid at Sioux Falls public schools? School board members Monday approved an increase in prices for adult meals. The biggest increase was an extra 50 cents for lunch at elementary schools.
  • One year into the pandemic, Sioux Falls still has about $20 million in federal relief funds to spend. City Council is expected to get an update in the coming weeks.
  • The Sioux Falls School Board election. Tuesday marked the first day interested candidates can circle nominating petitions to get their name on the ballot. Two seats on the five-member board are open in the May 18 election.


Ben Reifel parents pleased with short-term solution to traffic concerns

Simplified: Parents last week said they didn't want kids to have to cross six lanes of 55 mph traffic on their walk to the new school, which opens this fall.

Two days later, Ben Reifel Middle School Principal Shane Hieronimus announced plans for a one-year solution.

Tell me more.

The proposed solution includes:

  • Additional flashing signage for kids crossing 41st Street.
  • A shuttle to get kids from the intersection near Harmodon Park across Highway 11 before and after school.
  • Speed advisory signs on the highway that'll flash for 20 minutes before and after school.

Why it matters: The one-year plan addresses parents' main concern about children safely crossing Highway 11.

  • This isn't a permanent solution, though. Hieronimus noted that district and city officials met last week, and they agreed that, until the school opens, it's hard to know how it'll affect traffic patterns.

There are also some unanswered questions. See those and what parents have to say here.


What I'm falling for this week:

Thank you

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