Happy Wednesday! Megan here.

Shoutout to Mother Nature for making 30 degrees feel like a heatwave, and the National Weather Service predicts a mild end to the week. Time to drive with the windows down, folks.

And now, news:

EDUCATION

Kids in virtual classrooms fell behind. Officials hope these changes help.

Simplified: About 1,000 students in the Sioux Falls School District's Virtual Academy failed to meet grade-level standards in the first semester this year. Officials hope stricter criteria for who qualifies for virtual learning will help moving forward.

Why it matters:

  • Online learning is here to stay. School board members on Monday approved a permanent Virtual Academy model with some key changes from what the program looks like this year.
  • Officials got a first look at outcomes from the fall semester, and the takeaway is that online learning only works for a small subset of students.
  • Enrollment for the 2021-22 Virtual Academy is open now until March 23. Those who enroll are committing to a full year of online learning, and those who miss the enrollment window are out of luck.

How many students fell behind? Numbers were worst at the high school level, where nearly two-thirds of online students – approximately 462 kids – fell behind.

Half of middle school students – approximately 282 kids – didn't meet grade-level standards in English, and more than half fell short of math standards.

About one-third of elementary students – approximately 261 kids – failed to meet grade-level standards in English with a slightly lower percentage failing to meet math standards.

See what parents, school board members and district officials had to say about the Virtual Academy, and get a closer look at what's changing here.

COMMUNITY

Meet the students working to make dress codes more accepting of Black culture

Simplified: Black students want to be able to wear head scarves, durags, bonnets and other head coverings as a way to both protect their natural hair and express their culture. But in some schools, these items violate dress codes.

Why it matters: Black students say current dress codes are embarrassing, at best, and, at worst, discriminatory.

  • Dress codes vary between schools, meaning students at Washington High School can wear bonnets, durags and other head coverings, but those at Lincoln and Roosevelt High Schools cannot.
  • School board President Cynthia Mickelson said the board has asked administration to work with students and the community to update dress codes and make sure they are uniform across the district.

Hear more from these students here.

SIMPLIFIED PRESENTS*

Get to know the regional nonprofit helping bring jobs, business to the area

The Lincoln and Minnehaha County Economic Development Associations have been around since the early 90s, and the groups – which essentially operate as one entity – have worked behind the scenes to help with many of the developments in the area.

Here’s what you need to know about the nonprofit:

What’s the goal of the nonprofit? Economic development. Basically, the aim is bringing money into regional communities by way of jobs, new businesses and industries.

“To me, it is attracting industry to the community, growing property tax base, sales tax base and creating a strong community you can market,” said Executive Director Jesse Fonkert.

What does that look like? Largely, LCEDA/MCEDA helps communities in the following areas:

  • Developing new businesses
  • Helping existing businesses succeed
  • Telling the stories of these businesses
  • Helping communities plan and strategize for long-term economic success

What's the plan for the future? The goal is to be more proactive in seeking business prospects as well as more streamlined in working with communities.

That means changes are coming. Stay tuned.

*Simplified Presents shared paid pieces from Sioux Falls Simplified sponsors. To become a sponsor, email megan@sfsimplified.com

CITY

About 1 in 6 people in Sioux Falls has had a COVID-19 vaccine

Simplified: More than 41,000 people in the Sioux Falls area have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to data from the city health department. That's about 16 percent, or close to 1 in 6 people in the city.

Why it matters:

  • This news comes as new confirmed cases are trending down, and hospitalizations are stable.
  • City health officials are also closely watching the UK variant of the coronavirus, which they expect will be the dominant strain in the state by March. That means it's too soon to start easing up on precaution and mitigation measures, they say.
  • More information on vaccines is expected to be released in a March community education campaign geared towards answering common questions.

STUFF TO WATCH:

  • This Thursday is "crossover day" in the South Dakota Legislature. That means any bills that haven't passed out of their house of origin will die, so if you're watching legislation that hasn't yet made that step, keep a close eye out this week.
  • Forward Sioux Falls launched their 2021 campaign. The effort – a joint venture from the Chamber of Commerce and the Sioux Falls Development Foundation – looks to raise money, support businesses and attract workers to the area. Get a closer look at their priorities here.
  • Recurring donations to the Skate Park Association are being matched right now up to $1,000/month. Money goes toward building a skate park near 10th Street and Cliff Avenue.

SIMPLIFIED PRESENTS*

How car washes are helping Special Olympics

Silverstar Car Wash has a commitment to giving back to local nonprofits, and so when its new store at East 57th Street and Graystone Avenue opened earlier this month, the company reached out to Special Olympics of South Dakota.

Why it matters: During its first week in business, Silverstar offered car washes for a freewill donation to Special Olympics South Dakota.

In total, they raised over $1,100 for the nonprofit, which helps people with intellectual disabilities participate in both individual and team sports.

What people are saying:

"When you get a phone call like that, it's just wonderful," Special Olympics President and CEO Darryl Nordquist said about Silverstar reaching out about the donation. "Of course, I'd say, thank you for thinking of us."
"Our team members just really enjoy that they're able to be a part of giving back to the community," said Andrea Vetos, regional manager with Silverstar.

Learn more on how you can help here.

*Simplified Presents shared paid pieces from Sioux Falls Simplified sponsors. To become a sponsor, email megan@sfsimplified.com

THIS AND THAT

What I'm falling for this week:

REACH OUT

What story do you want to see simplified? Falling for something local? Send any news tips, attaboys, missed typos or unwanted house plants to megan@sfsimplified.com.

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