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Columbia Board of Education votes to return students to an in-class hybrid model



Columbia Public Schools students will return to the classroom.

Elementary students will learn in-person for four days per week on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday Friday.

Middle and high school students will learn in-person two days per week and online via zoom two days per week. All grade levels will return to in-person learning on Jan. 19.

Students will be labeled based on the name - group A or group B. One group will go to class Monday and Tuesday and then zoom in on Thursday Friday while the other group switches that plan.

The board passed the decision in a 5-2 vote.

WATCH LIVE: Watch the meeting replay in the player below.

The board last month pushed back in-person learning for elementary students from Jan. 11 to Jan. 19 so it could have a chance to look at the latest COVID-19 numbers after the holidays. Middle school and high school students were slated to return to fully learning in-person Jan. 19.

CPS middle school and high school students have been learning all-online since last spring when the start of the coronavirus pandemic interrupted the school year. Elementary students returned to classrooms for a few weeks in the fall before the board voted to have them return to online learning amid a spike in coronavirus infections.

Boone County health authorities have reported nearly 14,000 cases of novel coronavirus since the pandemic started last March. Health officials report 62 county residents have died. The rate of new cases has decreased since its November peak but remains much higher than it was during the spring and summer.

Deaths have jumped during the latest surge, with most of Boone County's fatal cases coming since the start of November.

CPS officials use several indicators to inform the decision of whether to return to classes. Among them is the number of cases per 10,000 people in the district's boundaries over the last two weeks. That number stood at 83.3 on Wednesday. The district pegged 50 as a key level before the school year started, saying a rate higher than 50 suggests having classes online-only.

However, CPS leaders have repeatedly said that the case rate is just one of several factors influencing their decision.

The board said it will discuss at its next work session what factors will decide if another change to the learning method is needed.

Matt McCormick from the Columbia Chamber of Commerce came forward at Monday night's meeting to encourage the board to consider the impacts of its decision on the workforce.

"When making your decision tonight please me mindful of how different learning methods create challenges for our workforce and business community, wherever you land tonight," McCormick said.

He also asked that the board give the working community a minimum of five day's notice before any changes to the learning model.

The board had a long discussion before coming to a decision. It voted down continuing to learn completely online and learning in-person four days per week for all grades before passing the amendment.

Several members, including Della Streaty-Wilhoit and Teresa Maledy said they supported learning in-person in some fashion.

Streaty-Wilhoit changed her stance after previously saying she supported learning virtually, and even said the district should consider using a method of its own. Columbia Public Schools has looked at what several other districts have done in response to the pandemic.

"That fact that we are going to be doing the masking and the vaccination and so forth, and so many people have criticized us for using the Minnesota model," Streaty-Wilhoit said.

Several board members, including Helen Wade, voiced support in favor of students continuing to learn online and learning fully in-person before passing the amendment.

"I don't disbelieve the science and it doesn't matter anyway. I think that our transmission rates are very high and it's very difficult for me to articulate a basis based on those numbers to say, 'Hey something is different now,'" said Wade. 

Boone / Columbia / Columbia Public Schools / Coronavirus / Education / K-12 education / Top Stories / Top Stories
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Sydney Olsen

Sydney Olsen reports in the evenings during the week and on the weekend.


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