CoMo For a Safe Return to School
CoMo For a Safe Return to School
Dear CPS Board Members and Dr. Stiepleman,
We present this letter to you as concerned parents, educators and citizens of Columbia. Recent events in Columbia have shown an outspoken group of parents pushing for a return to all in-seat learning. While we recognize the valid concerns of these parents and students who are experiencing difficulty with their learning environment, we felt our voices were being left out of the conversation.
Those of us signing below recognize that there are current limitations to the education our children are receiving virtually, but also recognize the need to return our children safely to the classroom. We believe that students can be in-seat safely with social distancing and a district wide, enforced mask policy.
As of the drafting of this letter, there are currently 124 staff members out due to COVID, 436 quarantined elementary students two weeks following the opening of school, 52 as our 14-day rate per 10,000 people, and three elementary schools diverted to virtual for staffing reasons. Following the second full week of opening there were 17 positive staff identified and an additional 37 quarantined, compared to the week before school started of 2 positives and 6 quarantined. In addition, the positivity rate in Boone County continues to accelerate. The week prior to the 10/12 vote to return to school, the positivity rate stood at 13.2, today that number is 17.7, this is the second highest positivity rate we have had in the entire pandemic. Additionally, since 10/18 cases in the 5-17 age group have risen 16.8%.
Based on decisions made previously, this rate places us in the 2 Day Hybrid model. This model was chosen so that students and teachers could safely attend school while social distancing a minimum of 3ft. We encourage the Board of Education members to recognize the risk to our students and our teachers. Health Department leaders and the CDC state that following proper mask mandates, using advised barriers when social distancing guidelines of 6ft cannot be followed and reducing exposure times when unmasked (like at lunch) are necessary to succeed at returning. We believe these are areas the Board can act on.
By following the recommended guidelines of strict mask use, social distancing of 6ft, and following successful examples of opening, which include clean air solutions, the risks to students, teachers and their families are diminished. This also allows the ability to have a consistent learning environment that benefits all students. One Elementary school has had to switch back to virtual learning within 2 weeks, several entire classrooms at various schools have been quarantined, and staffing shortages have resulted in administrators, specialists, aides etc having to step away from their daily duties to cover classrooms. It appears that CPS does not have the expected sub pool necessary to maintain consistency in classrooms. The current situation provides an unstable learning environment that may only worsen with the return of grades 6-12, if recommended health guidelines are not able to be followed and additional substitutes for all positions are not identified.
We also want to take this opportunity to uplift our educators, who are working countless hours to prepare a new curriculum, adjust to new technology and give our students the extra time and attention needed to help them adjust to this new learning environment.
Many of our online students are thriving. Many of our virtual classrooms are starting to form friendships and bonds with one another. While these students may not have the face-to-face interactions some parents seek, this does not mean all children are suffering in the virtual environment.
Our Board members are being asked to help parents advocate for what is best for their student. This may mean finding a way to offer both in-seat services for those with IEPs, English learners or others with in-seat needs and communicating available alternatives that still give children some interaction opportunities, like free tutoring through DBRL or Adventure Club opportunities.
We do believe the virtual learning option must remain for those that wish to keep their children home during this public health epidemic. We also believe that it is important that all stakeholders have a clear understanding of the decision guidelines that the Board is operating within, and to stay within those parameters. We trust that this Board can find compromise and offer parents and teachers what was promised, a safe return to education.
Parents, Educators, and Citizens of Columbia