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Jefferson City students back in person as Columbia Public Schools remains online for now

Columbia Public Schools
Columbia Public Schools Administration Building, Columbia, MO

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Students in Columbia and Jefferson City have returned after the holiday break.

In one district, students are back in their school buildings. In the other, they're learning online for at least two more weeks.

The Jefferson City School District returned to in-person classes on Monday and Columbia Public Schools went back to virtual classrooms on Tuesday.

"While it can be a bit of a struggle to get back into the swing of things after Winter Break, this week is going well so far. Our staff, students, and families have gone above and beyond in their efforts to help us stay in-seat this year, so the break was a welcome opportunity for everyone to catch their breath and recharge before coming back to school.", said Ryan Burns, Spokesman for Jefferson City School District.

JC Schools went on winter break Dec. 21. The school district has held in-person classes throughout the semester but has had to temporarily move classes online for some schools this school year because of staffing shortages. Teachers were out because of coronavirus positives or quarantine and there weren't enough substitute teachers available.

Burns said, "We have seen a decline in the number of students and staff members having to quarantine in the past month as the number of new cases in Cole County has been decreasing. There are relatively few staff members on quarantine now, and staffing is stable for the time being. As we have been throughout the school year, we will continue to closely monitor the number of individuals who are in quarantine and keep an eye on case numbers in Cole and surrounding counties."

The district has had 431 cases among students and staff and 531 people have been quarantined because of exposure to the virus out of about 8,500 students and staff, according to the JC Schools website. Two new student positive cases -- one in Bel Air Elementary and one in Jefferson City High School -- were reported Monday.

The district's two high schools have seen the highest numbers of cases in students and staff.

"The Jefferson City School District remains pleased that our re-entry plans are working as designed: by minimizing the exposure to any positive cases that do enter the school environment. Our schools have worked all year on preparations to transition to distance learning if/when needed, but we do not have any concerns about needing to do so at this time.", said Burns.

CPS students and teachers logged back on to virtual learning environments Tuesday, returning from winter break. All students are now set to return to their classrooms on Jan. 19. However, the Columbia Board of Education meets Monday and could change its decision at that time.

The case rate within the community will help determine the board's decision. The rate of cases per 10,000 people in the district over the past two weeks is 73.1, well below the peaks of more than 100 seen in November but well above the rate set as a baseline for online learning. However, CPS officials caution that rate isn't the only factor that determines whether administrators will recommend in-person or online-only classes.

CPS parents have been divided on the issue to send kids back to the classroom. Some want their kids back in the classroom learning environment and others feel it's safer to keep kids at home. The district plans to install air purification systems throughout the schools to create a safer environment for students to return.

Check back for more on this developing story or tune into ABC 17 News at 5 & 6.

Boone / Cole / Columbia / Columbia Public Schools / Jefferson City / Jefferson City Public Schools / News / Top Stories

Victoria Bragg

Victoria Bragg joined the ABC 17 News team as a multimedia journalist in October 2020.

She is a graduate of Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas and is a Dallas native.

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