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Columbia Board of Education approves temporary mask mandate, calendar changes and an increase in pay for some teachers

Columbia's Board of Education discusses COVID-19 changes in a meeting Thursday morning.
Columbia's Board of Education discusses COVID-19 changes in a meeting Thursday morning.

Watch a replay of the meeting in the player below.


The Columbia Board of Education signed off on Superintendent Brian Yearwood's temporary mask mandate during a special meeting Thursday morning.

The board also approved changes to the district calendar that will have students out of classes until Wednesday to relieve overburdened staff.

The board unanimously approved a temporary mask mandate, which was amended at the meeting to give Yearwood the option to extend it through Feb. 18. The mask rule was originally in place until Nov. 4.

The meeting is taking place in part due to Missouri law now requiring a governing body to approve health orders.

State Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch (R-Hallsville), disagreed with the temporary mandate and said, "Attorney General Schmitt will be seeing you all in court again soon." This, referencing Attorney General Eric Schmitt's recent lawsuits against schools that mandate masks.

Multiple students in the district also spoke during public comment, all asking for the board to adopt the measure.

Superintendent Brian Yearwood supports the face mask mandate due to the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases across the school district and recommended in the meeting to have the ability to extend it through Friday, Feb. 18.

The board unanimously approved increasing pay for teachers who substitute for additional classes or take in extra students to their classroom.

This comes as the substitute fill rate for CPS is just 56.3% as of Thursday with the district already needing 136 substitutes throughout the week.

Additionally, 91 teachers are currently out due to COVID-19 with five others quarantined.

The plan will increase secondary teachers' pay from $12 an hour to $24 an hour while substituting classes. For elementary teachers, pay would increase to $24 for a half-day and $48 for a full day.

CPS Chief Financial Officer and Board of Education Treasurer Heather McArthur clarified that this pay increase is for teachers, not teacher’s aides or substitute teachers from outside vendors. McArthur said the board does not want to pay a contracted worker more than teachers.

After the vote over increasing pay, the school board then held public comment over the changes to the school calendar the district announced last week, including a five-day weekend for students beginning Friday.

State Representative Cheri Toalson Reisch (District 44-Boone County), suggested during public comment that CPS could use holidays such as President's Day to make up for the missed learning time.

The Board of Education approved the changes to the school calendar unanimously without making any changes.

According to the CPS COVID-19 Dashboard, 263 students are currently out due to COVID-19. Additionally, the 14-day rate for the school district currently sits at 312 new cases per 10,000 people.

That number is up from the 24.5 new cases per 10,000 people reported two months prior.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia Public Schools
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Ben Fein

Ben Fein is a multimedia journalist for ABC 17 News. You can usually see his reports on weekend mornings or weekdays at 5, 6 and 6:30 p.m. on KMIZ.


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