Columbia Public Schools is refining how both in-person and online learning will be structured during the 2020-2021 school year, taking into consideration all of the district’s moving parts.

Superintendent Peter Stiepleman on Monday announced the decision to let families choose either online or in-person learning to the Columbia School Board.

A complete reentry plan with more detailed information about both online and in-person learning will be sent to families by June 22. The same day, district will also send an enrollment questionnaire that asks them their preferences.

As of current planning, in-person classes will be five days a week. During a radio interview with “Wake Up Columbia” on Tuesday, Stiepleman said schools will continue to practice social distancing as much as possible.

The district is working closely with Columbia/Boone County Health and Human Services in developing fall guidelines.

The differences and specific needs that elementary, middle and high schools present will be taken into account during planning, district spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said.

One option Stiepleman presented to the School Board was having students stay within “stable groups” to help limit movement throughout schools. How these groups are defined at each level of education would likely be different.

For example, while elementary students could potentially stay within one classroom all day, this would be a problem during more specified learning in secondary schools, such as labs and technical courses. Students will still be able to use school facilities, such as restrooms, Baumstark said.

Baumstark did not provide specific details about in-person learning structures and other concerns, such as busing, emphasizing that families will have more information by June 22 after the district finalizes plans.

If students initially choose in-person learning and would like to switch to online, they can do that during specified times of the year. But if students wish to switch from online to in-person, they will have to wait until the next semester.

Online curriculum for elementary schools will be written and supported by MU and taught by district teachers. In secondary schools, the classes will be curriculum written and taught by the district.

Baumstark said the district will give teachers the opportunity to teach either online or in-person. She said based on course offerings and enrollment, some secondary teachers may do both.

The district will work with students who have Individualized Education Plans to create specific plans for the next year. Stiepleman said Tuesday that if families choose online learning but still want to come to the school for specific programs, the district will help coordinate the best methods to do this for each student.

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • Assistant city editor for the public health and safety beat. I am a second year graduate student studying public policy journalism. You can reach me at or on Twitter @MikaylaEasley

  • Elizabeth Brixey is the Columbia Missourian's education editor and an associate professor in the Missouri School of Journalism. She can be reached at (573) 882-2632 and

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