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School districts take steps to keep the doors open despite rising COVID-19 concerns


As COVID-19 continues to spread in schools across the nation, some locals are taking extra steps in order to keep students learning inside of the classroom.

Helias Catholic High School in Jefferson City announced Wednesday that all students, faculty and staff will be required to wear masks anywhere that social distancing of 3 feet cannot be maintained. The school has also announced this weekend will be a four-day weekend with the closure on Tuesday following the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in an effort to minimize potential exposures.

Other districts are also concerned about keeping the doors open.

Michelle Baumstark with Columbia Public Schools says, "Make no mistake, we are stressed. Our systems are stressed, but we are not currently, at this moment in time, at the point where we cannot operate."

Plus, they've had to find creative ways to combat with staffing issues. "Employees from other schools, from administration, from other departments are stepping in to assist when there is a shortage or vacancies are unfilled."

Columbia Public Schools currently has 410 students out due to COVID or quarantine with more than half coming from the Elementary level. There are also 68 staff members on leave because of the virus.

Jefferson City Public Schools spokewoman, Ryan Burns, says, "District leaders have been meeting daily to assess conditions and plan to make several decisions Thursday."

Todd Fuller with the Missouri State Teacher's Association says there isn't a district in the state that isn't being hit hard right now.

"I think everybody parents, teachers, school, all community members need to be prepared for if a building has to shut down for two or three days or a week. We need to be ready for that because it's going to happen throughout the state," Fuller said.

Southern Boone School District students went back to in-person learning Monday after the district switched to virtual learning to end last week. The district cited staffing and substitute teaching shortages related to the uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Fuller also says, "We need to figure out creative ways to make sure that the teachers are able to have time to plan for the classes that they're teaching. Because there's so many other teachers out you may have one third grade teacher that is filling in for three other third grade teachers. We need to be prepared and give those teachers the break."

Finding substitutes continue to be an issue for districts, CPS has a sub-fill rate of 43.9% this week with nearly 316 subs needed. This number compares to the week before winter break when 153 subs were needed and the fill rate was at 78.6%.

Fuller said he's also heard of districts sending students home with iPads not knowing if the next day they could be learning virtually.

Derby Ridge Elementary sent an email to parents on Wednesday that said, "We want to ensure our children have access to learning in case their attendance is impacted for any reason. Therefore, iPads will be going home each day.  Please make sure your student's iPad is brought back to school every day charged and ready to use."

The district however still says no virtual learning measures are in place.

Baumstark says the district is going to continue to monitor cases and adjust as necessary.

"We look at staffing in the building based on what each school needs to continue to operate safely. We look at the number of staff and students out in that building. When staff availability reaches the point where a building can no longer operate, we consider shifts. When the number of students out makes it such that learning cannot continue, we consider shifts. When all of our buildings have reached this point we consider district-wide shifts. We are not at that critical mass yet," said Baumstark.

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Chanel Porter

Chanel joined ABC 17 News in January 2021 after graduating from Penn State University. She enjoys traveling and a daily iced coffee.


1 Comment

  1. CDC 12/29/2021: “people can remain PCR positive for up to 12 weeks after infection and long after they are transmissible and infectious.” So much for the PCR test being valid.

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