JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.
Gov. Mike Parson met with school leaders Tuesday afternoon in a closed roundtable discussion about the reopening of schools around the state.
The meeting comes after Parson ordered all schools shut their doors in the middle of last semester to slow the spread of COVID-19. The governor has repeated his support for the reopening of schools in a safe manner.
School leaders from several districts and the governor met at Capital City High School.
The governor held a briefing after the roundtable with school officials. You can watch the conference in the player below.
The governor said he heard plans and ideas from school districts that could be a good framework for other school districts working on their return plans. He said some of the most important ideas are about contact tracing and testing.
With Tuesday being another record-breaking day in statewide COVID-19 cases, the governor said the state is monitoring hospitalizations, the average age that is being impacted, and when and if the healthcare system is over loaded before considering another closure.
"I don't know if there is any magic number to it," Parson said. "Look, we have to move forward and we have to deal with this virus."
Parson has received pushback about comments he made to a radio station about children inevitably catching COVID-19. He later clarified the statement and said he cares about student and school worker safety.
One Blair Oaks teacher Jill Verslues expressed her concerns about the ability to be socially distanced in the classroom to the governor, saying it is almost impossible and causes a lot of anxiety in teachers.
"We're going to do it, that's our job, but that anxiety for teachers does come especially with teachers who have children at home with autoimmune deficiency syndromes, or taking care of their elderly parents," Verslues said.
The governor replied to her statement saying that districts from across the state were given CARES Act funding to provide PPE for school employees and students.
"I think you've got some very smart people there that can figure out how to do social distancing, how they can wear a mask if they wear a mask, how do you make sure the personal hygiene is kept up," Parson said.
Verslues said the governor was listening to district leaders, particularly about substitute teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving forward, her district's plan has not been released yet, so she is not sure what her classroom will look like.
"I'm hoping for a healthy school year and I'm hoping for no deaths in our school district," Verslues said.
The superintendent of the Blair Oaks R-II School District Dr. Jim Jones said its plan will likely come out at the beginning of August. He said Tuesday's meeting was a good way to see what other districts are doing and work together to get back to the classroom.
"We're excited about all of us working together," Jones said. "There is not a 'one size fits all option.'"
He said the district has surveyed parents and teachers about returning to the classroom, saying the majority are ready to come back to in-person education.
Jones said they are modeling a lot of their plan after how they did summer school this year with social distancing, but a lot more though will go into the plan before it's released.
He said the district is preparing for all scenarios.
"We want to create every opportunity possible to provide them with the resources that are going to allow them to have the highest comfort level possible at our school," Jones said.
Watch ABC17 News at 9 and 10 for a full report.