COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Columbia Missouri National Education Association released a report Monday with recommendations for the start of classes at Columbia Public Schools.
The 14-page report outlines recommendations for different areas, including classes, technology and online lessons.
In the report, the group recommends CPS delay the start of in-person classes until after Labor Day at the earliest. The district is currently planning to return to school on August 24.
CPS families have had the chance to choose whether their students will go to classes in person or do classes online.
CMNEA said the district should wait to see how the return of students to the University of Missouri and other college campuses will impact local COVID-19 cases.
"The largest age group of COVID-19 cases in Missouri is currently 20-24. Delaying in-person learning for CPS until after Labor Day would allow sufficient time to see the impact of the return of college students on case numbers," the report said.
Kathy Steinhoff, president of CMNEA pointed out that younger people are most largely being impacted by the virus.
"Our MU students, our Stephens, our Columbia College students, coming back to town, that is completely out of our control," she said. "We already see that that age group is our biggest group, not only in Columbia, but in the state of Missouri."
Kristen Burkemper, second vice president of CMNEA said the influx of college students could affect COVID numbers.
"I want nothing more than to be back at school with my kids learning and loving on them but I'm really nervous to go back to school in person," she said. "I know that online wasn't great in the spring but that was an emergency and we did the best that we could. So I think the public needs to know that if we do have virtual learning in the fall it's going to look very different. It's going to mirror more of a school experience."
The report also said the delay would allow CPS to monitor the impact of Columbia's mask ordinance.
According to the city, data shows the ordinance may be helping control the spread of the virus locally.
A recent press release from the city included the numbers below:
- The week of July 3-July 9 the positivity rate for Boone County residents was at an all time high of 16%.
- The week immediately following the mandate, July 10-July 16, the positivity rate fell to 6.2%.
- During the week of July 17-July 23 the positivity rate rose slightly to 7.2%.
Steinhoff said educators' main concerns are the safety of students and faculty.
"I think if you look at the health and safety recommendations you will see because they were created by educators there is an overwhelming fear of everyone's safety," she said.
She said a lot of everyday interactions will be different from what educators and students are used to during the school year.
"You see teachers pulling pencils out of a pocket or behind their ear. 'Here, use this pencil. Oh, that one's not sharpened, let me grab that one and sharpen it and give you another one.' Even a simple act as that, all of that is going to be so very different," she said.
Burkemper said the stress as an educator is overwhelming knowing they are responsible for more than one life.
"We're worried about our kids, we're worried about our own families. We're worried about our spouses. It's just a lot to put on the plates of the teachers when you think about the impact of COVID," she said.
Even though the CMNEA recommends delaying the start of in-person classes, the group said buildings should still be available to educators to access wifi and other resources.
The association emphasized the importance of online curriculum as well, for both students doing online and in-person classes in case they need to quarantine.
"The district should purchase, or adopt when free, an online learning curriculum for Pre-K-12 and CACC curriculum from a leading provider experienced in online learning," the report said.
Steinhoff said online curriculum is a big concern for CMNEA and teachers have been working very hard to get lessons prepared.
"It is a daunting task and we are worried that it wont get done and we are worried that maybe it will get done to get us going for a few months, but then what happens after that," she said.
Michelle Baumstark, spokeswoman for CPS, said the district is now reviewing the recommendations made by CMNEA, and some of the recommendations align with the work the district is already doing.
"Technology and safety are examples of areas where we are aligned. Much of what is included in their plan is addressed in our plan or is currently in the process of being implemented," Baumstark said in a statement.
The group said the district should oppose any standardized testing for the school year, and should provide 'safe opportunities' to students to take necessary in-person tests like AP exams, the PSAT and ACT.
The report also includes recommendations for CPS families, like setting aside a time each day for students to do online work.
It also outlines the importance of parents keeping in contact with schools for assistance of different kinds, noting that many families are dealing with stresses they have not had to before the pandemic.