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Some happy, some let down by Columbia Board of Education’s decision to send some kids back to class

Ridgeway Elementary School
Ridgeway Elementary School sign.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Families with students in Columbia Public Schools have differing opinions of the school board's decision for elementary students to return to the classroom. 

At its meeting Monday the board voted to allow pre-K through fifth grade to return to a four-day week starting next week despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The board also voted against having middle school and high school students return to classrooms.. CPS leadership had suggested bringing middle school students back in November and high school students in January.

CPS parent Leslie Heath said she is happy that her first grader will be able to return to classrooms next week even though she is high-risk.

“I’m happy that they are going back,” Heath said. “Something is better than nothing. I think there is absolutely no reason that they shouldn’t be able to go five days a week.”

The four-day week plan will not allow for social distancing when students return for school and Heath said it doesn’t worry her. Wednesdays will be reserved for cleaning buildings.

“It doesn’t worry me,” Heath said. “My daughter is high-risk because she has cystic fibrosis but she’s been going to a daycare where they have not been wearing masks and have not been social distancing and she’s been fine.”

Heath said there is no reason that middle school and high school students shouldn’t be able to go back as well. 

“I just feel that they are letting those kids down,” Heath said.

Chastity Sanders has a younger sister that is a high schooler and she said she agrees with the board's vote for middle school and high school students. 

“I think for the rest of the school year,” Sanders said. “It’s a lot safer, they can pick up and go back to school next year.”

The board made the decision for middle school and high school students to continue with online learning until further notice.

Grant Elementary School teacher Ariel Schwarting said she is excited to see her student in-person next week and they are just as excited.

Schwarting said she believes that she will be able to put about three feet of distance between students in her class because she has a smaller class size, but she understands that isn’t the case for all teachers.

"I feel comfortable and confident that I can put about three feet of distance between students across my classroom," Schwarting said.

She said she encourages the community to reach out Columbia Missouri State Teachers Association if they have questions because their goal is to be as transparent as possible.

School started Sept. 8 online-only as coronavirus cases surged in Boone County. New case rates have dropped considerably since then, paving the way for the board's Monday decision.

Riane Cleveland

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