Gov. Mike Parson applauded the efforts of Missouri’s K-12 school districts Wednesday as they make accommodations for the upcoming school year with COVID-19.
However, some districts, including Columbia Public Schools, are still making adjustments about when to start and how to hold classes.
Parson noted he met with administrators and educators last week in various districts across the state about their needs and challenges in returning to school. While he said many districts were ready to have children return to school, specifically in rural areas, he emphasized each school district is different.
“There is no one-size-fits-all in the schools,” Parson said. “Every school district will look differently based on its unique needs, and we will continue to focus on the health and safety of our students, school staff and communities as a whole as we move forward with the school year.”
Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said rapid contact tracing will be a key strategy as schools reopen . He said DHSS has been working with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and federal resources to help make the tracing process quicker.
The state has struggled to keep up with both testing and contact tracing in the past, however. Last month, the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services Department was overwhelmed with contact tracing efforts. Parson also said Missouri has eliminated its backlog of COVID-19 tests.
In Columbia, teachers and community members have recently voiced their concerns about the district’s reopening plan, which is not final.
During Tuesday’s Columbia School Board meeting, the district announced it was considering a later start date of Sept. 7. While students currently have the option to attend classes either completely online or in-person, the district was strongly urged to consider having students come to schools only part of the week by Health Department Director Stephanie Browning and Medical Director Dr. Ashley Millham.
DESE and DHSS also released additional information Monday about reactive strategies schools should take when reopening, including what to do when a student gets sick, how to handle a positive case of COVID-19 and how to conduct contact tracing.