Columbia Board of Education votes for pre-K through 5th grade to return to a four day week next week
UPDATE 11:40 P.M.: As people headed into the board meeting tonight ABC 17 News crews asked what their reactions would be to whichever way the board voted.
Most parents we spoke to and parents that spoke during the public comment section of the meeting said they hope the board decides to allow students to return to classrooms in-person four days a week.
“I would be ecstatic and I know my 11-year-old would be as well," said Kelly Hoober a CPS parent. "He told me he wants me to text him as soon as I find out the results.”
But if the board decides on a different option…
“Honestly I would be super disappointed," said Hoober "Crushed. I think I would honestly hate to go home and tell my 11-year-old to be completely honest.”
While a CPS teacher and President of a local teacher’s union said the four-day in-person learning is extremely concerning.
“Because that means we would not be social distancing to the level that our health department experts have instructed us to do so,” said Kathy Steinhoff.
Steinhoff said as long as the decision is made with the safety of students and community in mind then she would support the board.
“Our teachers want to be back in school just as much as our kids want to be back at school," said Steinhoff. "We just want to do it safely.”
“It’s just a tough situation all around," Hoober said. "I know teachers are doing the best they can and I know a lot of them want the kids back in school as well. I'm hoping for the best and I hope the teachers know that we support them we just want our kids back in school with them in person.”
UPDATE 10:40 P.M.:
Watch the board meeting replay in the player below.
UPDATE 9:50 P.M.: The Board of Education has now started taking public comment on the plans to reopen schools.
A 5th grade student is currently speaking to the board. She says by learning online she does not feel like she is being prepared to move to middle school. #abc17news pic.twitter.com/Mhnmyq834t— Sydney Olsen (@SydneyABC17) October 13, 2020
During the previous discussion, staff members say many middle school students are not engaging in non-core classes like band or physical education. Grades in those classes are much lower than last year.
Board of Education member Teresa Maledy pointed out that, although high school students would return last, they are typically more tech-savvy and able to navigate online learning.
UPDATE 9:00 P.M.:
UPDATE 8:55 P.M.: Board members and other speakers continue to discuss what hybrid learning might look like for students.
The board is discussing if students return to the classroom, parents can still choose to have their kids access lessons online but they would not be live. They could still meet with teachers on Wednesdays to discuss their lessons.
Board members have voiced concern about the increased difficulty of contact tracing among older students. They have also discussed how more students would probably be required to quarantine if there were a positive case among the older students.
UPDATE 8:20 P.M.: At the beginning of tonight's meeting just before 7 p.m., two spokeswomen got up in front of the board and talked about the findings of back to school surveys in the Columbia school district.
A spokeswoman from the Columbia National Education Association says two-thirds of elementary teachers it surveyed do not feel safe having a four day in person learning model because of lack of social distancing.
A spokeswoman from the Missouri State Teachers Association says in a survey around 50% of teachers who answered wanted to keep teaching on an online platform. She said some teachers were worried about not being able to follow the health order.
At 7:42 p.m., the board began its discussion on the reopening plan now. Columbia Board of Education President Helen Wade says this is one of the hardest decisions she has ever faced.
Board of Education member Chris Horn said, “If you can’t provide a safe environment you can’t educate.” He voiced concerns about safety if students were to return to classrooms.
Many of the board members have voiced the importance of masks if students return.
Columbia Board of Education member Blake Wiloughby has made a motion to amend the start date for K-5 to Oct. 26 instead of Oct. 19 but no one seconded the motion meaning, it failed.
Columbia Public Schools leaders are set to talk about students returning to classrooms.
The board of education is expected to vote Monday night on a plan to get students back in school after starting the year Sept. 8 with classes online-only.
CPS Superintendent Peter Stiepleman at the board's last meeting recommended a four-day week to bring students back into school buildings. Social distancing would not be possible under the plan. However, the proposal would allow buildings to be cleaned on Wednesdays.
If the board approves that plan, elementary students could return to classrooms as soon as next Monday, middle school students by Nov. 5 and high school students by Jan. 19.
The board had previously discussed a different plan that would involve hybrid learning under which students would rotate to be in the classroom two days per week. Wednesdays would also be left for teachers to help students get caught up on work.
Stiepleman said at the last meeting that a hybrid plan would stretch teachers too thin. He said the district heard from many parents who said they would lose childcare if their children were in class for only two days per week.
Check back for updates on this developing story and watch ABC 17 News at 9 and 10.