Let’s Get Back to Class
Like so many other parents throughout Missouri, I have eagerly waited for news about the coming school year. My wife is a public school employee, and our daughter attends school in Rolla. We wondered if our child would be allowed to return to the classroom or would she have to take courses online? If schools reopen, what will that be like? Will students have to wear masks? Can they ride the bus? How will lunches be handled? Will extra-curricular activities, such as band, theater or sports, be available?
I was pleased to learn my daughter’s school, along with every other public school within the 16th Senatorial District, will begin in-person classes in August. Some of the larger school districts in our area will continue to offer virtual classrooms as an alternative, but most students will be at their desks in classrooms this fall. The decision to hold in-school classes was made independently, on a district-by-district level. There was no statewide order or directive from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Each school board in my district considered the potential risk from the virus and determined reopening the schoolhouse was in the best interest of children.
From the first days of the coronavirus pandemic, the governor has said decisions must be made on a local level. One size does not fit all. I believe that is especially true for education. Rules and policies that make sense for urban or suburban schools may not be appropriate for a rural school. The five counties I represent in the Missouri Senate, in total, have reported fewer than 1,000 COVID-19 cases all year. Even within my district, the situation varies greatly. Camden County – an area that attracts tourists and visitors from other areas – has reported 428 cases of COVID-19. By contrast, Dent County has seen just 25 positive coronavirus tests. In my opinion, each school district faces unique challenges, and their responses will differ as well.
To help local districts determine the best course for their students, DESE provided guidance for reopening schools. You can go online and see these guidelines at www.dese.mo.gov. You’ll find specific recommendations for screening students, procedures for maintaining appropriate physical distancing, suggestions regarding masks and other protective measures and strategies for schools to follow if students or school personnel tests positive for COVID-19.
How these recommendations are applied varies by school district. By now, most parents will have already received guidance from their child’s school, but each of the school districts serving our area has details about the coming school year posted on its website. The day-to-day routines inside the school may be different this year, but the good news is that we will soon return to normal – a new normal, at least – within our schools.
As a parent, I understand why some families would be concerned about their children returning to the classroom this fall. But, as a state senator, I’m confident our school officials have made the right decisions. I welcome the start of the new school year and wish every child and teacher the best as they return to the classroom.
It’s my honor to serve as your senator for the 16th District. If you have questions or need any assistance, please call my office at 573-751-5713 or log onto my webpage at https://www.senate.mo.gov/brown for more information.