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Anne Bloemke-Warren supports masks as a coronavirus mitigation measure and says Jefferson City School District needs help with diversity.

Her views might put her at odds with many in the district -- the other candidates in the race are against masks, for example. Bloemke-Warren says she's "working for change" and is a mom and "certified regular person."

She works as grant manager at the Missouri Public Health Laboratory, giving her knowledge of the response to the pandemic.

Should JC Schools bring back masks if we get hit with another coronavirus case surge?

My opinion on this will be based on science, I do work for the Missouri state public health lab, so I have been on the frontlines of the pandemic, since about September of 2020. I think Jeff City did a great job handling the pandemic, and our schools were the largest school district in the state to keep kids in-seat the entire time. And I think a large portion of that was because we did have our kids wearing masks for the large portion of that. So if it comes down to we run into another surge, I think putting our kids back in masks to keep them in the classroom is probably the best option. I think keeping our kids in-seat is the only way to make sure they are still learning. And I will advocate for whatever we have to do to keep them in-seat.

How do you think the JC Board of Education handled navigating the previous pandemic surges?

I think all of us were learning at the beginning. Everybody has their opinions on the things we did right and the things we did wrong. And obviously, we all did things wrong at times, I think. We learned as we went. I think now doing the color-coding has been a good move, even though during omicron, we kind of ignored it for a second. I'm not sure that was the right call. But I do think masking requirements, regardless of the fact that we were in the green was definitely the right call, and it kept our kids in-seat for all but one week, which, you know, that's what had to be done. And it was the right call, things were really bad in Cole County and all over the state for a large portion of December and January. So I think that things could have been done better. But we knew what we knew. And we were learning as we go. So now we have this, hopefully, in our rearview. And we can learn from it and move forward. And we'll have it next time. Hopefully, there isn't a next time. But hopefully, we're past it. And we know better this time.

Is teaching about history, race and LGBTQ issues being done appropriately in JC Schools classrooms?

I haven't heard anything negative about it in our schools. I'm a parent of a fourth-grader in Jeff City Public Schools. I'm friends with parents of Jeff City students. I have not heard a single parent mention any issues with how their students are learning about these issues in the schools. I hear lots of issues with parents having kids that are experiencing racism. So I mean, I think racism existing is an issue, obviously. So I mean, anything we can do to teach about it, I think needs to be taught. And I think Jeff City has done a great job. I don't think we're doing too much. I don't think we're doing too little. I think we're right in that sweet spot. And I know this is a national issue. But Jeff City has not done the things that they're being accused of doing. I think that you know, there's a lot of talk about DEI, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training, being part of the CRT (critical race theory) umbrella. And you know, that's not even teaching our children -- that's teaching our teachers to make sure that they are including children equally and teaching equitably. So I think everything that we can be doing, we are doing and I can't imagine any parents have had an issue with how racism and LGBT issues are being taught.

How accessible do you think the school board is to the public?

There's always room for improvement in communication. But I've never had an issue in communicating with any level at JC Schools, with teachers with administration with the board. I have never had any issues. I don't know of anyone who's had any issues. I know that there are people that have issues with being able to speak at the board. And I am open to allowing an open forum, a more true open forum, at board meetings, where nonagenda items can be discussed, time-limited, just like agenda items, 3 minutes, you can discuss anything, whether it's on the agenda or not. There will be no discussion, it will just be, you can voice for 3 minutes, an issue that you're having, not personnel, not student-related, obviously. And if the board decides to put it on a future agenda, that can happen, but I am open to that if that is something that parents feel that they need to improve that communication.

Are there any other issues you see as important to JC Schools?

I think that facilities is a big deal. I think that we still have two schools that don't have air conditioning. I think that is -- it's inexcusable. I know one of them is getting air conditioning this summer. Both of them were scheduled to. Thorpe Gordon is not going to get it this summer due to I think supply chain issues and time. I think they just didn't have time if they wanted to keep kids in summer school in that building. And just, you know, summer being time-limited, they didn't want to have kids come back from summer in the middle of construction, which I understand. But at the same time, why is it 2022 and the school doesn't have air conditioning? Why are we putting that off until 2023.

So I think that real priority needs to be given to facility prioritization. I don't understand some of the larger projects that are being undertaken when these smaller projects that are hitting kids in the classroom are being overlooked for literally decades. In some of the smaller schools. Thorpe Gordon is a very small school and is in disrepair in a lot of ways. They don't have a walk-in cooler in their cafeteria. They have the smallest cafeteria in the district. I mean, they can't put all the kids in there at the same time. So you know, I speak about Thorpe Gordon, because it's closest to my heart, that's where my daughter goes. But these ... kinds of issues are district-wide. They built Pioneer Trail and didn't anticipate the growth in the community around it. And it's already too small. And they had when they were doing the boundary changes, had to move kids out of there already, and it's only a few years old.

So I think real priority needs to be given to looking at our budget and seeing what things we need to be spending our money on that is going to hit kids closest to the classroom. My job at work every day is budget and looking at line items and making sure we're spending our money in the best possible way. And I'm excited to do that for the Jefferson City Board of Education and our annual budget to make sure that taxpayers are getting the best return on investment. And our kids are coming out with better outcomes.

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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.


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