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Columbia Board of Education to consider five day weeks, some parents and teachers optimistic

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

It's been nearly one year since COVID-19 drastically changed how students in Mid-Missouri learn. Now, the Columbia Public Schools Board of Education is set to vote on another step to move closer to normalcy.

According to the agenda, the board will consider a motion to continue its phase-in plan, by resuming classes to 5 days a week. The plan began in November when the board voted to return students to in-seat learning on January 19.

The discussion and vote will come after both public comment and a presentation from the superintendent on case rates, CDC guidelines and report, quarantine and isolation information, and public health data.

Currently, Elementary students are learning in-person four days per week on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Middle and high school students are in-person two days per week and online via zoom two days per week.

A spokeswoman for the district previously said families that chose virtual will remain virtual for the rest of the year.

ABC17 News first reported the possibility of this change after an interview with the superintendent Dr. Peter Stiepleman on ABC17 News this morning.

The change comes as the CPS 14 day case rate per 10,000 people in school boundaries has been dramatically falling. As of Friday, the rate was at 13.5. The highest reported rate was 111.7 on Nov. 23.

President of The Columbia Missouri National Teachers Association Kathy Steinhoff said she is expecting the board to vote to move back to five-day weeks after spring break, which is March 29 through April 2.

"I think that we are there, we are ready," Steinhoff said.

She said with teachers eligible for the vaccine on the federal level at certain pharmacies, and soon to be everywhere in Missouri once the state moves into tier 3 on March 15, there is optimism about getting back to normal.

"I think the fact that our COVID rates have gone down tremendously, I think the fact that we actually have a lot of studies that support the value of mask-wearing and the effectiveness of it, I think we are ready to be there in the community," Steinhoff said.

The move will not come without work from teachers, Steinhoff said. She said there are still educators concerned for safety and education quality concerns.

"Some are concerned from a safety standpoint, and some are concerned about the ability to actually deliver the way that we have been while we still might have kids virtual and in person," Steinhoff said. "It's going to place a significant time demand on us without letting go of something."

She is hopeful the district will work with teachers who are more concerned than others, as some are in higher risk areas of education than others. She used the example of a choir teacher with a large class size compared to a smaller seated class style.

"Clearly there are different levels of safety risks depending on the job a person is in, and I hope the district is really working with those people in the highest safety risk," Steinhoff said.

One CPS parent April Ferrao said while she is confident in the safety aspect of her students going back to the classroom, she thinks five days a week is too much to put back onto teachers.

"We have already thrown so much at the staff and teachers this year to jump through hoops to make quick changes," Ferrao said. "I think if five days is going to cause one more minute of a teacher or a staff member to have to jump through hoops to have to create something else, no, we've asked enough of them."

While she thinks Columbia is "doing great" when it comes to COVID-19 cases, Ferrao hopes the district lays down solid standards for moving back to hybrid or virtual learning if cases were to spike again.

"I think they need to have a clear guideline that says if we get to this point, we'll go back to hybrid, and make that clear so that families can have some sort of expectation," Ferrao said.

She also thinks the board and the district will have to reconsider restrictions, like the number of students allowed at games, etc.

"They need input from students and parents and teachers, they need to consider their input," Ferrao said.

Watch ABC17 News at 9 and 10 for the full report.

Columbia / Columbia Public Schools / Coronavirus / Education / Top Stories / Top Stories

Connor Hirsch

Connor Hirsch reports for the weekday night shows, as well as Sunday nights.

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