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Reopening process amid COVID-19 will vary for each Missouri school district

COLUMBIA, Mo (KMIZ)

Missouri public schools are weighing the options when it comes to safety measures in the fall, but the Missouri School Boards' Association said those precautions against COVID-19 will be different for each district.

The Columbia City Council approved this week a mask ordinance that will go into effect at 5 p.m. Friday. The ordinance will require anyone in Columbia to wear a mask when in public.

The regulation is in effect through early October.

The ordinance will require students in Columbia Public Schools to wear masks, as well.

However, not all school districts fall under similar mask ordinances.

Missouri School Boards' Association Deputy Executive Director Brent Ghan said each school district is different.

"It's going to vary a lot from school district to school district," he said. "Exactly what needs to be implemented and how it should be implemented, depending on local circumstances."

Ghan said there are several factors that play into those local decision-making processes.

"A good example might be physical distancing, which is something that is probably going to be necessary in school districts across the state," he said. "Some districts might have buildings and facilities that might make distancing a lot easier than other school districts would, where they have, maybe, older buildings and smaller classrooms."

Kathy Steinhoff, a teacher at Hickman High School, said she supports having extra precautions at schools.

"We also really want to support everyone being safe," she said. "All the statistics out there and all the data out there supports that face masks are the best way to keep ourselves safe."

Steinhoff said that, even with face masks, returning to the classroom does come with its concerns.

"Sometimes its our elderly patients that are losing their lives over COVID-19," she said. "We also see young people that this is taking a toll on. People who have preexisting conditions and some of them are so young that they don't even know they have those conditions. It's just terrifying. It's a horrible, horrible thing."

The Missouri School Boards' Association said that each district will have to keep teachers in mind when it comes to the decision making process, as well, as some teachers are in the at-risk age range.

Each school district will also have to consider local guidelines, but Ghan said the district will also have to consider costs amid lagging revenue from the economic effects of COVID-19.

"I think one of the main concerns might be the resources that school districts are going to need to implement the safety processes and protocols that are probably going to be required," Ghan said. "Where do those resources come from? I think we would be supportive of some additional federal resources."

Teachers like Steinhoff said the lack of funding for schools across the country is concerning.

"To see our Governor withholding money and to see our president making comments about withholding money for districts that chose to not reopen in the fall, that's very concerning," she said.

Ghan said the environment for providing face masks for teachers and students is a difficult one, as funding is not high. Gov. Mike Parson has already withheld $123 million from K-12 education for the budget year that began July 1.

"We are facing possible funding reductions, at least from the state level. Districts facing increased costs and implementing some of these procedures, while at the same time facing some real budget challenges," Ghan said.

The Missouri School Boards' Association has been providing school districts around the state with advice for the reopening process, but Ghan said each district needs to be in close contact with local health officials.

Check back of watch ABC 17 News at 6 for more on this developing story.

Education / K-12 education / Missouri / News / Top Stories
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Nathalie Jones

Nathalie reports on both news and sports for ABC17. She started working at the station in June 2020.

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