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Coronavirus

Cole County schools to decide if educators are considered essential workers

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

Cole County schools will have to decide if educators are considered essential staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the provision, teachers and staff who are considered essential workers are allowed to return to work if they have been exposed to COVID-19, so long as they do not show coronavirus symptoms.

Kyle Farmer, an attorney for the Missouri State Teachers Association said he'd heard voices both for and against labeling teachers as essential workers.

Farmer said some are concerned that they'll have to use their sick days to quarantine when they aren't actually sick, leaving them with none if they were to contract the virus.

At the same time, Farmer said that some teachers are also concerned about potentially spreading the virus asymptomatically if they were to continue to work.

In a joint release from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the decision to list teachers as essential will be made by local governments, health officials or school districts.

If a school decides not to adopt the policy, school personnel are required to quarantine for two weeks if exposed to COVID-19. If the policy is adopted, staff members who have been exposed will have to go through precautions before they're allowed to step foot in the building.

Staff will still however be required to pre-screen before the day to ensure symptoms don't appear.

They will also be required to monitor their symptoms throughout the day and wear a mask all day.

Chezney Schulte with the Cole County Health Department said this will ensure that districts still take precautions and avoid any outbreaks from teachers who may be asymptomatic.

Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell met with the Cole County Commission on Thursday morning going over the rule.

Campbell said in a statement the health department recommends teachers wear a medical-grade mask and follow social distancing guidelines if exposed to coronavirus.

The health department said it's developing testing protocols for school personnel that have to quarantine because of COVID-19. Campbell said guidance on the testing was not finalized.

Four staff members in the Jefferson City School District had active coronavirus infections Thursday, according to the district website. Another Cole County district, Blair Oaks, has reported multiple cases in students and staff.

Blair Oaks reported a new case in a student Thursday but said the student had not been at school this week and had not exposed anyone else.

Cole / Education / Jefferson City / Jefferson City Public Schools / News / Top Stories

Matt Ragsdale

Matt Ragsdale is a broadcast and digital producer at ABC 17 News.

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