State athletic tournaments a no-fly zone for drones

By Dana Hess

For S.D. Newspaper Association

PIERRE, S.D. — If you’re going to a South Dakota High School Activities Association-sanctioned state tournament, leave your drone at home.

At its June meeting, the SDHSAA board of directors passed the first reading of a policy prohibiting unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, from flying at any association-sanctioned state tournament.

“At state events we are not going to allow them,” said SDHSAA Executive Director Wayne Carney. “If you want to use it at your own event, that’s fine.”

Information provided to the board questioned the legality of the use of drones under Federal Aviation Administration rules as well as privacy issues and liability issues in case of an injury.

The policy states that at state tournaments drones will be banned from flying over all fields of play, courts, arena, mats, gym floor or pool as well as spectator and parking areas.

An exception to the policy can be made for the association’s broadcast partners.

Most school districts want statewide transgender policy

By Dana Hess

For S.D. Newspaper Association

PIERRE, S.D. — A survey of member schools shows that the majority of them want the South Dakota Activities High School Association to develop a policy that they can all use when considering the eligibility of transgender students to play high school sports.

“They want a consistent policy,” said SDHSAA Assistant Executive Director James Weaver.

Asked if their school saw a need for a statewide SDHSAA transgender policy, 78 percent of those who responded said yes or yes to some degree.

A resounding 94 percent said no or no to some degree when asked if it should be left to each individual school district to develop its own policy.

Fifty-nine percent of responding schools said no or no to some degree when asked if the Legislature should develop a policy for transgender eligibility.

During a discussion of a revised transgender policy at the SDHSAA June board meeting, executive director Wayne Carney noted the results of the survey.

“The survey said that very clearly: ‘We don’t want 150 different policies,’” Carney said. “They want one.”

Fresh fruits and vegetables make great, affordable summer snacks.

By Carrie Johnson, SDSU Extension

I am extremely lucky in the fact that I currently have a 9-month position with SDSU and I get to spend the summer at home with my four children. However, that means I now need to plan three meals a day instead of one as well as provide snacks throughout the day.

I’ll be honest; the first few weeks we were home together I cheated a bit and didn’t plan well. I treated them to fast food on a number of occasions to make things easier on myself. I quickly realized that there was no way I could continue to afford this and had to come up with a plan.

Plan a menu and keep an inventory of what you have

The first thing I decided to do was make a two-week menu (including snacks). This way, I knew exactly what I needed to get at the store. I checked my pantry, refrigerator, and freezer before deciding on meals to see what was already available. I even let the kids help make the menu so there were options I knew they would eat because leftovers do not typically get eaten in our house.

Consider fruits and vegetables for snacks

Snacks are always tricky. If my kids could snack all day long they would. I try to keep a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in my refrigerator all the time. This time of year is great for us because produce is a relatively inexpensive snack option, as long as I only let them eat it in moderation. We had to come up with a snack schedule so they would still get their snack AND eat an actual meal.

Make your own convenience foods

To save even more, I decided to make some convenience foods of my own. For example, I am making homemade pizza instead of buying frozen or take-out. This way I can sneak in some nutrition like making it on whole wheat honey crust which is I personally like the flavor better anyway. I even broke out the mixer my husband bought me for Christmas for the first time and baked some homemade cookies instead of buying store bought.

Stick with the plan

So far we are doing very well at sticking to our menu. I made sure to write it on the dry-erase calendar we use for activities so the kids know what they will be eating throughout the week. Now when they wake up in the morning they look at the calendar to see what they can have that day. Here’s hoping we can continue to save money on our summer food budget.

Leet School: Spanning Time and Space

Leif Arne Holen museum mgr.s. d. mag story jpg


Once a teacher, always a teacher. That’s true of many educators and it also applies to a little country schoolhouse built long ago in Sanborn County.

The Leet School, built in 1883 by Norwegian immigrants near Letcher, was painstakingly deconstructed board by board in 2007. It took two weeks to disassemble and pack the country school into a 40-foot container. The school sent by train to New York City, then by freighter to its new home — the Norwegian Emigration Museum in Hamar, Norway.

Eight years after its relocation, the doors of the Leet School have reopened at the Norway Museum as part of a permanent exhibit. “The school is a wonderful addition to the Norwegian Emigration Museum because it is a true, unbroken link with Norwegian-American pioneers,” says Elyce Rubin, who originally notified the museum about the Letcher school. “It will teach invaluable lessons of self reliance, love of the land and patriotism.”

Rubin, a travel writer, became aware of the school when she came to South Dakota researching pioneer photographer O.S. Leeland. She sent out a request to South Dakotans to contact her if they knew of any information on Leeland. H. Richard Christopher, a Letcher farmer, knew of some Leeland photographs and contacted her in New York. When Rubin visited Christopher in Letcher, she was amazed to find the Leet School on his farm.

When the school closed in 1968, Christopher purchased it at an auction for $115. He moved it to his farm and started collecting items from the school’s past. Over the next several decades Christopher found furniture, textbooks, photographs and assorted school supplies including lunch buckets and a school bell, a coal stove and kerosene lanterns. “The school was my baby,” Christopher told a South Dakota Magazine writer in 2007. The decision to agree to the donation to the museum was difficult, he said. In the end, Christopher agreed donate the school if he could control the classroom’s setup and placement of his memorabilia, which included his own report cards, art and tests. The museum was especially thrilled to receive the school’s contents, which Christopher had carefully displayed in the school.

“I tend to give life and personality to inanimate things. I had dialogue with the books and desks and what these items meant to me. I thought about keeping the teacher’s desk bell and a student desk. But they all seemed to say to me, ‘we all want to stay together,” he said.

Eight years after Christopher made the hard decision to donate the school and its contents, he is traveling to Norway this month for the grand opening of the Leet School, now called the Leet-Christopher Skolehuset. The simple schoolhouse has new life in Norway.

Someone once said that education is a matter of building bridges. In the case of the Leet School, the spans of time and distance are fairly impressive.

The article on Leet school, written by Steven Garnaas, was originally published in the November/December 2007 issue of South Dakota Magazine. The magazine is a bi-monthly print publication featuring the people and culture of our great state. Visit for more information or to subscribe.

Wettest May on Record

BROOKINGS, S.D. – Moisture during the month of May rapidly transitioned the state out of drought conditions.

“Preliminary data indicate that at least eight climate stations reported their wettest May on record, with more reports yet to come in,” said Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension Climate Field Specialist.

The north central and southwest regions were among the wettest areas of the state. The north central region weather stations recorded their second wettest May since 1895 with a regional average of 6.22 inches; the other wettest was recorded in 1906 when the region-wide average was 6.73 inches.

Records were also set at individual weather stations; Mobridge recorded not only its wettest May, but May 2015 is documented in the record books as the wettest month in the location’s recorded history with 9.32 inches of precipitation. This exceeds the previous record of 8.85 inches in June 1915.

Edwards added that the southwest region of the state had many climate stations that measured two to three times their average May precipitation.  “As a region, the southwest also had its second wettest May on record, with an average of 7.29 inches,” Edwards said. She said the wettest May for this region occurred in 1982, with a region-wide average of 7.34 inches.

Transition out of drought

Following the driest January through April period on record for South Dakota, the May 5, 2015 U.S. Drought Monitor had 78 percent of the state in moderate to severe drought (in D1 and D2 designations.)  By May 26, 2015 only 9 percent of the state was in drought, focused on the southeastern region.

The May statewide average precipitation was 5.88 inches, according to preliminary data. Monthly precipitation ranged from less than three inches to over 10 inches.

Snow was a contributor to May’s moisture levels, with many western South Dakota areas, including Bison, Martin and Interior, which reported more than 10 inches of snowfall on May 10 and 11, setting several new snowfall records for the month of May.

Climate outlook

National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released the June 2015 Climate Outlook which Edwards calls “a mixed bag.”

“The month appears to start off warmer than average, but temperatures could turn towards average or below average by the end of the month,” she said. “Overall, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center has indicated equal chances of below, above and near median temperatures for the month.”

As far as precipitation for the month ahead, Edwards said there is an increased likelihood of above median precipitation across most of the state, with higher probability along the Nebraska border. “If this monthly outlook holds true, it could mean the end to our worries of drought for a while,” she said.

Edwards said El Nino continues to be a factor in this season’s outlook, as a moderate to strong event is currently underway.  “In general, El Nino means less likelihood of long term extreme heat events and less likelihood of extended dry conditions in the summer season.”

So far, Edwards said El Nino has been bountiful in bringing rain to our drought-plagued region of just four weeks ago.

Warm Weather Means Return Of Mosquitoes, West Nile Virus Risk

July through September might be the peak transmission for West Nile virus (WNV) in South Dakota but cases have also occurred in June, said a state health official today. o ignored

“West Nile is a serious, sometimes fatal illness and South Dakota has a disproportionately high number of cases,” said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the Department of Health. “That’ why it’s so important we get in the habit of protecting ourselves with mosquito repellent and doing what we can to get rid of the standing water that give mosquitoes a place to breed.”

Prevent mosquito bites and reduce the risk of WNV with the following precautions:

Apply mosquito repellents (DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535) to clothes and exposed skin. Limit exposure by wearing pants and long sleeves in the evening.

Limit time outdoors from dusk to midnight when Culex mosquitoes are most active. Culex are the primary carrier of WNV in South Dakota.

Get rid of standing water that gives mosquitoes a place to breed. Regularly change water in bird baths, outside pet dishes, and drain water from other flower pots and garden containers.

Support local mosquito control efforts.

Personal precautions are especially important for those at high risk for WNV – people over 50, pregnant women, transplant patients, individuals with diabetes or high blood pressure, and those with a history of alcohol abuse. People with severe or unusual headaches should see their physicians.

Since its first human WNV case in 2002, the state has reported 2,168 human cases, including 677 hospitalizations and 32 deaths. Every county has reported cases.

Visit the department’s website at for more information about WNV.

Cultural Heritage Center offering program on Basin League baseball June 20

The Museum of the South Dakota State Historical Society at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre is hosting a program about the former Basin League of baseball teams from South Dakota on Saturday, June 20, at 2 p.m.

Reid Riner and the Minnilusa Historical Association will present “Hit ‘Em Where They Ain’t: A Brief History of the Basin League,” in conjunction with the new exhibit  “Play Ball! The National Pastime in South Dakota” at the Cultural Heritage Center. Riner is the executive director of the Minnilusa Historical Association and operates the Pioneer Museum at the Journey Museum in Rapid City.

There is no fee to attend the program but there will be an admission fee to visit the baseball exhibit and museum galleries.

Winner was one of the cities that hosted a Basin League team with Jim Palmer playing ball here in Winner. The last coach of the Basin League team was Harry Wise of Colorado.

From 1953 to 1973, 11 cities in South Dakota hosted baseball teams from the Basin League. An amateur league, most players were college stars, although all teams had some journeymen Major League players. Future stars that played in the league included Bob Gibson, Jim Palmer, Frank Howard and Don Sutton.

“We are especially excited to bring Reid Riner to the Cultural Heritage Center to talk about the Basin League,” said Jay Smith, museum director. “The Basin League played a major role in the history of baseball in South Dakota, and many of our patrons may remember attending Basin League games as youth.”

Persons to be on Lookout for Scams

Winner Police Department reminds residents to be aware of several scams that are floating around Winner.

In one, the caller says they are from the IRS and wants persons to send money. The IRS does not call people and request money.

Also, another scam involves a caller who tells persons they have won prizes and they have to pay the taxes before the prize can be delivered.

The police department says this is a scam and some people have been burned.

The police report there also persons selling CDs and other items without a sales tax license.

“It is summer time and there are a lot of scams out  there. We want people to be aware of these scams and be on their guard,” said police chief Paul Schueth.