JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Jefferson City School district is nearly a month through the 2020-2021 school year, and have not moved any full classes or buildings online, while there are cases in the school community.
As of the latest release on Thursday, 45 members of the district have gotten sick, while 56 have been identified as close contacts and asked to stay home.
27 of the positive cases are in students, while 18 have been found in staff members.
The director of communication for the district Ryan Burns said school leaders believe their re-entry plan is working well so far because they knew it would be impossible to completely keep the virus out of the district.
"All we can control is the impact COVID has on our school environment if someone with the virus comes in," Burns said.
When a case is identified, the district starts a contact investigation, seeing who the patient was within 6 feet with for more than 15 minutes. Those contacts are asked to quarantine, then a letter is sent out to the entire building.
Burns said some parents have expressed confusion about the reporting process. She explained the district only contacts families if the positive case was symptomatic at school, or were in a building 48 hours before becoming symptomatic.
The district has not set a threshold of cases in a building or the community that would spark a transition to online, according to Burns.
"Ultimately what we are looking at is if our plan is still working the way that it was intended to work," Burns said. "If we feel any concern that our plan isn't working, that's when we have to go back and kinda reassess and see if there is a flaw to the plan we can fix or are the cases growing in a way that we can't control exposure."
Another factor the district is watching is the number of staff and faculty members are able to work. As of right now, 7 staff have been identified as close contacts to a positive case.
Burns said right now the district is stable staffing wise, but there is a distance learning plan if the staffing levels become to low to support in-person learning.
"Our focus is how do we keep this system working as long as it's working well," Burns said. "Keep out plan moving, so that we can keep our students in the classroom.
For students who are home either with the virus or in quarantine, Burns said students are sent their work virtually, but there is not a hybrid style for learning right now.
The President of the Missouri National Education Association Phil Murray believes communication and partnership between district leaders, teachers and parents is critical for any district.
"Everybody is going to be in a different place," Murray said. "We really do encourage there to be information that's transparent and abundant, but also that there is communication for all of the stakeholders."
He said the association doesn't have a set recommendation for when districts should consider going online, again stating communication is key.
"A lot of it will have to do with the work the district did in advance, how they are isolating groups from each other as they are going about their days," Murray said. "There are just so many variables in there that you won't find a single one size fits all answer."