COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
All Columbia Public School families have been learning virtually since November.
Families have voiced concerns and frustration during Columbia Board of Education meetings about learning online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wednesday night, families and educators had a chance to discuss learning virtually with each other. Columbia Public Schools hosted a virtual World Cafe where people had the chance to rate each other's main concerns around learning amid COVID-19.
From about 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., those attending the meeting online discussed how the virus is affecting the district. Health experts and community leaders participated in the discussion.
From around 6 to 7 p.m. they discussed teaching and learning virtually. Teachers, parents and students took part in that panel.
CPS staff and health experts explained during the panel how mitigation efforts like wearing masks and social distancing when possible are key ways to get students back into the classroom.
"When it gets warm again, getting kids outside and in classrooms outdoors and really being creative because, you know, the goal is to get kids back safely and mitigation strategies work," said Jennifer Goldman from Children's Mercy Kansas City.
Jennifer Schuster from Children's Mercy said oftentimes students are better about abiding by CDC guidelines than their parents or guardians.
"Children are far better at abiding to those mitigation strategies, particularly mask-wearing, and I think that that, at least in our region, is one of the reasons that we have not seen significant transmission in the schools," she said. "What I would like is, what we usually rely on children to learn from their parents, I think I would maybe like our parents to learn from our children."
Teachers talked about several things that would make them feel safer in the classroom including ventilation and the ability to social distance.
CPS Superintendent Peter Stiepleman asked Columbia/Boone County Health Director Stephanie Browning whether it could be a requirement one day for students to have to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Browning explained that would only be a requirement if legislation was passed requiring it, but she said it would probably be strongly recommended.
Health experts on one of the panel explained it is unclear how many students would need to be vaccinated in order for a return to the classroom to be safe, or when a vaccination may even be available for children.
Educators and students also voiced concern about the possibility of hybrid learning. The district looked at implementing hybrid learning before Coronavirus cases surged and the district made the move online.
Teachers said it is difficult to balance teaching students online and in person while trying to make sure students are taking precautions against the virus.
Nadia Gresham is a student at Rock Bridge High School. She voiced concern about students' ability to learn, especially in a two-day hybrid method.
"Especially as a high school student, you have half your class in and half your class out. It's like you're an observer. You're just watching other kids learn while you're sitting at home and not being able to engage with them," Gresham said.
Ashley Millham, medical director at the Columbia/Boone County Health Department said there is not enough data available to clearly explain which method of learning would be best.
"There's just not clear data about which model is the best, or we would be much more uniform I think across the state and probably the country too," she said.
CPS middle and high school students have been learning online the entire year. Elementary students had a brief stint in the classroom this fall but the school board voted to send them back online last month amid a record surge in coronavirus cases.
All students will remain online until at least next month, according to the board-approved plan.
Those who participated in the panels had a chance to type out their main concerns with learning in the time of COVID-19, and rate each other's answers. Stiepleman said those would be presented to the district to review.