Columbia Public Schools has given information to parents to help them decide if their children will attend online or in-person classes next year.

The district announced during a June Columbia School Board meeting that it would allow families to choose between online instruction and in-person classes next year.

In a re-entry plan sent to parents Monday, the district outlined how each option will work for preschool, elementary schools and secondary schools. Plans for special education and English learners were also provided.

Online learners will commit to the virtual platform for the entire semester and can choose to transition to in-person classes in the spring. Students and teachers in schools will be preparing to shift to online at any point of the school year.

The district plans to provide Wi-Fi hotspots and technology for students learning from home. It is working on how to continue providing lunches for online learners, as well.

In schools, the district is encouraging students to stay within stable groups of varying sizes to minimize exposure. This means large gatherings, such as school-wide assemblies, will not take place.

Buses will be available, though social distancing rules will be enforced. Rails and seats will be frequently cleaned, drivers will wear masks and students will have assigned seats. The district is encouraging families to provide their own transportationif possible.

Along with the re-entry plan, parents were asked to complete a survey that lets the district know if a student plans to attend online or in-person classes. It must be completed by June 30.

Preschool and early childhood education

Students in the district’s early childhood program will remain in stable groups of no more than 12 children at first. This means students will stay in their classrooms with assigned seating and other measures that enforce social distancing. However, there will still be access to special classes.

The district also will keep a waiting list and adjust class sizes if health department guidelines change.

The early childhood special education will have two sessions in the morning and afternoon with no more than 16 students in a class. Like other preschool classes, students will have assigned seats and the school will try to maintain social distancing.

Elementary schools

Students may enroll into an online platform called CPSElementary@Mizzou, which will include content developed by MU and taught by district teachers. The curriculum will include core materials and enrichment opportunities for students.

  • Kindergarten through second-grade students will learn language arts, math and science.
  • Third- through fifth-grade students will learn language arts, math, science and social studies.
  • All students will have physical education, art, music and media classes.

Elementary students who use online learning will talk with their teachers every day through video calls. In addition, students will have access to counselors, specialists and other teachers.

Students with Individualized Education Programs will be able to take online courses and receive special education services remotely, at the school or a combination of both. If a student does come to the building for IEP classes, they will be during normal school hours; however, the district will not provide transportation.

The district will also facilitate in-person or virtual groups for online English learners at specified times.

For those who attend in-person classes, the district will encourage students to stay within their stable group of people they normally interact with daily. Lunch will be held in students’ home classroom.

  • Students will be able to have recess outside with structured games or, potentially, designated zones.
  • Physical education will be held outside when possible.
  • Art, music and media classes will be modified to be held in a home classroom.

Middle and high schools

Online courses for secondary education will be taught through CPS Virtual with courses developed and taught by district teachers that is similar to in-person classes.

  • Students will be able to take most classes they already signed up for if they can be taught virtually.
  • Career and technical education courses will be available, and online students may also take in-person classes that require labs.
  • Performing and visual arts classes will mirror those in-person, and students may have to video call into these classes for additional support.
  • Students who choose online learning can still participate in sports affiliated with their home school.

Much like in elementary schools, students in secondary special education will be able to create individualized plans for online learning. In-person or virtual instruction is available for students with IEPs, and parents can choose a combination of both.

English learners will only be able to work with instructions via video calls at a specified time of the week.

Secondary schools will keep a normal schedule while also assigning stable groups of 25-50 students. Schools will use assigned seating when possible, and high schools will alternate between A and B scheduling days. The schools will continue to enforce social distancing as much as possible throughout the year.

  • There will be limited transportation between schools for career and technical education courses.
  • Performing and visual arts will be modified to adhere to smaller class sizes, avoid sharing materials and sanitize others that must be shared.
  • Physical education will be outside as much as possible.

Schools will put in protocols to prevent large groups of students in cafeterias at a time, such as adding lunch shifts, expanding eating areas or releasing students in groups to wait in line for food.

Throughout the school year, the district will follow guidelines by the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services. It plans to take a day-by-day approach for district-wide monitoring to communication rules to building access in the event of district-wide transmission or a spike in COVID-19 in Boone County or Columbia.

If a student or employee tests positive for COVID-19, the entire building could close temporarily for cleaning. Long-term closures would happen if attendance drops significantly or an order comes from the state or county health officials to close, spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said.

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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