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DESE says Columbia Public Schools relaxing quarantine and mask requirements is being done the right way


The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is supporting the Columbia Public School District's move to loosen some COVID-19 restrictions.

Chief Communications Officer of DESE, Mallory McGowin said DESE said it recommends school districts work with their local public health officials when considering rescinding COVID-19 restrictions.

"We really feel like at this point we're in with the virus, it's probably too soon to make a lot of sweeping changes," McGowin said.

But McGowin clarified that she does not feel CPS is making sweeping changes to protocols and that it is making educated decisions based on talks with public health officials, which DESE encourages for schools.

"I think this is a great example in Columbia of all those local health officials working together to continue to offer the safest plan for students and staff to be learning in person as they finish up the school year," McGowin said.

Currently, there are more than 450 CPS students in quarantine according to the district's COVID-19 dashboard.

Michelle Baumstark, a spokeswoman for CPS, told ABC 17 News in an email that the changes will include a reduction in quarantine days and masking guidelines. Baumstark said these changes would be made because of continued progress in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the schools and within the local community.

"Despite some recent positive tests among students that have resulted in an increase in quarantines, we remain encouraged by the efforts in our schools and our community to reduce the spread," Baumstark said.

The district announced the new guidelines to CPS families on Monday.

Fewer days will be required for quarantines. Currently, the guidelines have close contacts quarantining for 14 days. As of Monday, that will be lowered to 10 days.

Additionally, masks will no longer be required outdoors.

"Masks will be continued to be required while indoors, but masks, while encouraged, will no longer be required when outdoors," Baumstark said.

The CPS release on the updated guidelines also states that visitors will be allowing in limited capacities and small gatherings will be allowed. Fully vaccinated staff and students will be looked at to determine whether they need to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure.

Currently, the district's COVID-19 tracker shows 462 students are either in isolation or quarantine for COVID-19. Four students at the high school level have tested positive for the virus, while just one middle schooler is positive.

Staff vaccination rates were last updated April 23. At that date, 61.6% of CPS staff had been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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Molly Stawinoga

Molly Stawinoga is ABC 17’s weekday morning anchor and a reporter at ABC 17 News. Molly joined the news team in 2017 while studying political science, journalism and Spanish at the University of Missouri. She is originally from DeKalb, Illinois.


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