Base school liaison officer provides info, resources for 2020 school year

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Hailey Staker
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

The 2020 school year is fast approaching and Ellsworth parents have a myriad of questions. We recently sat down with Fran Apland, Ellsworth AFB Child and Youth Education Services School Liaison, to get the latest information and details for the upcoming school year.


Q: What are the schooling options for children enrolled in the Douglas School District and Rapid City Area Schools?

A: This year presents new schooling options, with Douglas School District (DSD) offering parents a choice of face-to-face learning in the classroom or virtual learning with either the Black Hills Online Learning Community (BHOLC) for grades K-12, or Odysseyware for high school grades.

  • Face-to-face learning can change based on three phases of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) activity in Pennington County, and could potentially become online learning using a virtual platform supported by a DSD teacher. All DSD students will be issued a computer or iPad for use with either learning option.
  • For people who live further from base, their students might attend Rapid City Area Schools (RCAS). They offer two learning options: On-Campus and Distance Learning classes. Four days a week, in-person classes will be provided Monday through Thursday, with distance learning on Fridays at Level 1 when COVID numbers are low. When COVID numbers increase, RCAS will move to Level 2 and students will go to school in cohorts with two days in class and three days of online learning. The distance learning option will all take place at home with computers available to students.

Regardless of the school challenges, the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3) is available to support and guide by visiting


Q: When does the school year start for the Douglas School District and Rapid City Area Schools?

A: The first day of face-to-face learning for DSD is Aug. 31. The first day of BHOLC is Sept. 1. Additionally, Rapid City Area Schools begin Sept. 8 for both on-campus and distance learning options.


Q: What is the registration process?

A: Registering students begins online on the school district’s webpage. Parents can find the process and learn what documents need to be provided at the school. The DSD requests registration be completed by Aug. 13, unless moving via permanent change of station into the area after this date.

For the virtual learning option, parents should register with DSD online then enroll in BHOLC, and complete the 2020-2021 BHOLC Learning Agreement. Families can register students in RCAS by visiting their website at If challenges happen during the process, and they often do, please reach out to myself as the DSD school liaison, or the registrar of the school.


Q: What are the school hours?

A: The school hours can be found by visiting the following website:


Q: What is the plan for school busing?

A: Precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are being taken to protect students and drivers on the school buses. Parents are required to send their child to school with a parent “health check” every morning to ensure they are well and fever-free. Hand sanitizer will be available at the entrance of the bus and all students are expected to wear a mask while on the bus. As weather permits, the buses will keep some windows open for ventilation.


Q: What types of measures are the school systems taking to safeguard students?

A: The schools have many physical features in place to increase the protection of students, teachers and visitors. Some of these protective factors include adding barriers and increased sanitizing, disinfecting, and cleaning procedures to prevent spreading the virus. All members in the school, including staff, students and visitors, are asked to wear masks when they cannot maintain six feet of physical distancing.

Additional measures include adding additional sinks and water fountains to facilities. When parents drop off and pick up their students, they are asked to go up to the front doors of the building but not enter without prior permission. Teachers will escort new and younger students to their classrooms.

Building principals and classroom teachers will have virtual meetings with students and parents to assist with reopening of schools.


Q: What are some challenges parents and school-age children are facing due to COVID-19?

A: Military parents face some unique challenges on an everyday basis, but when COVID is thrown into the mix, challenges can seem like impassible mountains. Reach out and ask for help!

Some families are PCSing later than in past years, and might need to spend time in quarantine. This may cause their student to miss school. If this is the case for your family, reach out the school liaison, and I will work with you and the school to find a good solution.


Q: What are the solutions or support programs in place to remedy those challenges?

A: Families often move into the Temporary Lodging Facility (TLF) without realizing that the Douglas School District will use a letter from TLF as proof of residence for school registration.

When registering a student it can sometimes be difficult to get in contact with someone at the school. At the DSD Central Office (400 Patriot Drive, Box Elder, South Dakota), ring the doorbell and/or place papers in the drop box at the front of the building.

When calling the school, if no one answers the phone leave a message on the answering machine with your contact information, and they will return your call.

It can sometimes be a challenge to get school records, immunization records, individual education plans, or 504 Plans from your previous school, or they were accidentally packed away. Parents can contact me to get assistance with getting copies of these important records.

Creating success for your student takes some planning, so it is always a great idea to have your student develop a relationship with the school counselor beginning in middle school. This year, it is key that high school students talk to school counselors to be sure that they are on track to graduate. Not all courses are the same in the virtual learning platforms and school counselors will know how to best help.


Q: If parents choose to home-school their children, what support is being provided?

A: Parents that choose to home-school have the ability to choose their own curriculum and set their school hours. They will need to register in their home school district and complete the Public School Exemption Certificate. There are many home-school families in the area, home-school communities and Facebook pages. If you need help contact your school liaison.


Q: Is the Youth Center developing programs specifically for home-school children? If so, what are these programs/support resources?

A: The Youth Center has a School Age Care program that is working on an all-day care plan to support working families that choose a virtual learning option. The staff will encourage and support youth as they learn, but remember they are not teachers. SAC has wireless internet access to support students’ computers used for virtual learning. Physical activities, and the Boys and Girls Club five core areas, will be available for alternate activities during the day.


Q: What is the Back2School Brigade?

A: The Back2School Brigade is an event hosted by the Ellsworth community from 9 a.m. to noon, Aug. 15 in the Pride Hangar parking lot. Typically, it is an opportunity for military students to come together and note the return to school. It is an occasion for parents to learn about key professionals, resources, and organizations that offer services in a variety of education related areas.

This year’s event will be a circus theme event in the Pride Hangar parking lot as a drive-through. K-12 parents can register on Eventbrite at to reserve one of the 400 backpacks filled with school supplies. These are all provided by Operation Homefront and donations from area residents and businesses.

To assist with traffic, families with a last name beginning with A and going to M begin at 9 a.m., and all remaining will be at 10 a.m. to create a staggered arrival of vehicles.

Editor’s Note: Due to these staggered times, visitors are reminded that the Bismarck (Commercial)  Gate will be closed on Aug. 15 to personal vehicle traffic in both the inbound and outbound lanes. Parents are encouraged to plan accordingly when arriving to the Main Gate as there may be increased traffic during the event.

 Q: Where can I find more information about school-related resources?

A: Consider following the Ellsworth AFB School Liaison Facebook page for information on local schools, educational resources, parent information, and more.

For more information, call Fran Apland, the School Liaison, at (605) 593-6563 or 385-5385. Parents can also email Ms. Apland at