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CPS proposed 4-day plan would not allow for social distancing

CPS Admin Building
CPS Administration Building.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Peter Stiepleman presented a four-day week option for bringing students back to classrooms at the Columbia Board of Education special meeting on Tuesday.

The plan said social distancing would not be possible if elementary students returned to school.

Stiepleman said the hybrid learning model would allow students to socially distance in classrooms as opposed to the in-person option.

The superintendent quoted MU Health Care infectious disease expert Dr. Christelle Ilboudo in the presentation saying the school district had to prioritize lower grades for all-day, in-person learning.

Ilboudo said the one challenge would be social distancing for younger students but that the four-day week option makes more sense than the hybrid model for the whole district. 

She said students with IEP’s or special needs should be prioritized for in-person learning. 

Visitors and student teachers would be restricted across the district.

If approved, the option would have elementary students returning to classrooms on Oct. 19, middle school students on Nov. 15 and high school students on Jan. 19. 

Stiepleman said a four-day week would allow schools to be prepared for additional 14-day closures, weekly building cleaning and essential training. 

The district's hybrid model could be sidelined in the new learning plan. It has been part of the district's coronavirus planning since March.

Stiepleman said the hybrid model can’t be short-term and it would reduce instructional time. He added changes to the curriculum would need to be made under the hybrid plan. 

One CPS parent Breeona Baron said she is ready for her son, who is a third grader to be back in class because she works nights to accommodate if her child had in-person classes.

She said even though social distancing wouldn’t be possible with the proposed four-day week plan, it doesn’t worry her.

"It doesn’t worry me because these are children," Baron said. "Their immune systems are really strong anyway. During flu season they don’t social distance. They’re all wiping their noses and wiping their hands on each other and touching all the same things."

Chastity Sanders has a younger sister that is a CPS student and does not agree with the plan.

"Kids don’t listen, kids don’t listen," Sanders said. "You could say I’m going to send you to school with a mask on but who’s to say they ain’t going to take it off 5 minutes after getting on the bus and then 15 other kids are exposed.”

Sanders said she wants parents to have the choice to send their kids back to school and not make it mandatory.

Columbia Missouri National Education Association president Kathy Steinhoff said the plan would give teachers an opportunity to access students more frequently. But she said the plan is un-safe and it puts everyone at risk from a health standpoint, that risk being the social distancing.

"It will happen in classrooms where students won’t be able to get farther than say 2 feet away from each other," Steinhoff said. "Even when they have masks on when you look at all the recommendations out there from our local health experts all the way up to our national health experts that is not a safe distance to be away from each other."

She said although it would enhance the district's learning it would be putting everyone at a risk.

The board of education is expected to vote on the four-day week plan at its meeting on Monday.

Riane Cleveland

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