Sen. Dave Schatz’s Legislative Column for Aug. 20, 2020

Beginning a New School Year

All across our state, children, parents and teachers are preparing to start a new school year. In a normal year, August means back-to-school shopping, the return of high school football and the hopeful anticipation of new experiences that come with the return to the classroom. This year, all of these experiences are also mixed with a sense of uncertainty and apprehension. As with most aspects of our lives, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a drastic effect on schools throughout our state. While many prepare to return to the classroom, virtual or in-person, the 2020-2021 school year will certainly look and feel different from any previous years we have experienced.

Despite the virus and its spread throughout the state, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) did not issue any statewide health mandates related to the start of the K-12 school year. While this might have troubled some, I truly believe a one-size-fits-all approach to starting the school year would have put many school administrators in a difficult situation. Instead, the state is allowing local school leaders and public health officials to make their own decisions regarding the start of the school year based upon what is best for their school district. Here in the 26th Senatorial District, school districts are exercising that local control and determining the best course of action for students in our communities. For some, this means starting the school year virtually with classes only offered online. For others, it means a return to in-person education in the classroom. What works for the Rockwood School District might not work for the students of Franklin County R-II or vice versa, and that is why I believe the decisions regarding the reopening of schools should be in the hands of those who know their community best — school leaders and local public health officials.

As a parent and a grandparent, I believe it is vitally important that parents play a role in preparing their children for the upcoming school year. If your children are returning to the classroom, please stress to them the importance of washing hands and avoiding close contact with others. Social distancing doesn’t come naturally to children, but they must learn that now is not the time for hugs or playful scraps in the schoolyard. Also, if anyone in your household is sick or shows any symptoms associated with the COVID-19 virus, please stay home. When in doubt, reach out to school officials and ask for their advice.

The start of the school year should be an exciting time for everyone involved, not one marked with anxiety and trepidation. If you have questions about the start of your child’s school year, I urge you to reach out to your local school district. For more information on DESE’s COVID-19 guidelines, please visit This information includes specific recommendations on screening students, procedures for maintaining social distancing, suggestions regarding masks and other important information regarding the reopening of schools during the pandemic. These are tough and challenging times, but we are all in this together. No matter your situation, I wish every student, parent and teacher a safe and successful start to the school year.

As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri Senate. If you have any other questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (573) 751-3678 or by email at if you have any questions or concerns — we are honored to serve you.