Columbia Public Schools is a step closer to providing more resources for students facing homelessness.

The Columbia School Board entered an agreement with Fostering Life-Changing Opportunities, or FLO, a nonprofit organization that provides school districts with resources to support children in need.

The agreement aims to supply stable housing to youths experiencing homelessness, offer activities that develop life skills and ensure families’ basic needs are met. It also is meant to improve students’ access to opportunities that lead to future financial stability, such as work-study experience and paid internships.

In exchange, the district plans to donate a building, at 403 Park Ave. near Douglass High School, to be used for district student and family support through FLO. First, the district has to buy the building, which it expects to do in the next five years. When that happens, the district will provide transportation for students living at the house to and from school.

“CPS, by and through its Board of Education, desires to work together with FLO in the true spirit of partnership, as FLO’s program goals align with their own mission,” the contract stated.

The item was approved on the consent agenda during the board meeting Thursday morning.

COVID-19 plan formalized

The board unanimously voted to extend the district’s COVID-19 plan. Superintendent Brian Yearwood explained the reasons for the extension, including the recent start of vaccinations for younger children.

The plan includes the district’s COVID-19 mitigation strategies and gives the district’s superintendent the authority to direct a mask mandate. A mask policy has been in place in school buildings and on school buses since mid-August.

The board voted to extend the plan at the Nov. 8 meeting and at previous full board meetings. “We’re going to do it at every meeting for the time being,” district spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said later.

Board member Blake Willoughby spoke in support of the policy and said all students should have the opportunity to get fully vaccinated before the policy is changed.

Early this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director issued a recommendation to extend use of the Pfizer vaccine to children ages 5 to 11. The district began optional in-school vaccine clinics Monday.

Leadership program for 10th graders

By approving the consent agenda, the board formalized a partnership between the district and MU’s Division of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity that will kick-start a leadership program for 10th grade students.

The Men of Color, Honor and Ambition and Women of Color, Honor and Ambition program is one year and strives to help students achieve academically. Students will go through university-guided leadership training and college preparation and receive help from local mentors.

The agreement is only for the 2021-2022 school year and expires June 1.

District bus charter contracts

Also Thursday, the board approved eight bus charter contracts for Battle, Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools with Doc & Norm Direct for athletics transportation. The need for additional bus services comes from a nationwide shortage of school bus drivers related to the pandemic, according to board documents.

In total, the contracts will cost $12,091 and will be financed by extracurricular funds and donations.

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  • Youth reporter, Fall 2021 Studying reporting/writing. Reach me at jme9p7@mail.missouri.edu

  • K-12 Education reporter, studying international journalism. Reach me at sofizeman@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700

  • 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 brixeye@missouri.edu.

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