COVID-19 quarantine procedures updated for Boonville students; staff decision tabled

Chris Bowie
Boonville Daily News

As COVID-19 cases increase across the region, the Boonville School District is discussing ways in which it can continue to operate. 

One of those is seeking to classify district staff as essential workers and the other is changing quarantine requirements for students. 

If district staff are considered essential workers and there is a quarantine order, those staff likely will not have to quarantine, Superintendent Sarah Marriott said.

Discussion was tabled Oct. 21 as the district board seeks more information.

There were 122 cases of COVID-19 among residents living in the Boonville School District boundaries as of Oct. 21. These cases do not mean that is among staff and students, just that a person may live within district boundaries who may have contracted the virus as of Oct. 1. The Cooper County Public Health Center keeps a running tally of cases within the various school district boundaries throughout each month. 

A proposal authorized by the health center the district developed could keep students in classrooms and lessen the number of students who have to quarantine, potentially disrupting their learning process.

The proposal passed 5-2, but there were considerations. 

Students now have a choice in whether they quarantine at home after an in-school COVID-19 exposure, Marriott said. 

For a student identified as a close contact, which means they were within 6 feet of a COVID-positive person for more than 15 minutes, but they do not have have COVID symptoms, that student can opt to remain in school than quarantine at home. 

The consideration only applies to those who were exposed at school, not outside of school. 

“Parents and students, though, they can still have that option to quarantine if they feel more comfortable with that," Marriott said. 

The district is basing this practice on guidelines being used in Newton and Benton counties. 

“This is a trial for us,” Marriott said. “The guideline is that if we have two combinations of staff or students or staff and students that develop COVID as an identified close contact, than that trial would end."

The district has recently finished its ninth week of school. Only a few students at the high school tested positive for COVID-19. A few staff at David Barton Elementary School also tested positive.

"Overall it has been relatively confined and we just watch it very carefully,” Marriott said.

The district, since Aug. 8, has reported 21 staff and 14 students test positive. There has only been seven school-connected staff exposures and only one for students to test positive. 

The district reported 170 students were quarantined with 100 school exposures and 70 other exposures based on close contact rules. Twenty-six staff have quarantined, Half were at-school potential exposure, while the other half were from community exposure. 

Bond sales; insurance; school calendars 

The board, last week, also authorized a resolution to sell some refunding bonds to save the district $207,000 in interest payments.  

“Over the years we have saved our taxpayers I believe it’s over $4.2 million in interest savings, so that was a big piece of the meeting,” Marriott said. "Interest rates are exceptionally low right now. They never predicted them to obviously be this low so there is potential to refinance this series bond at a 1.13% rate, which is really low.”

The board opened bids for liability insurance coverage Oct. 21. The coverage will be for workers comp-liability property. 

The board approved a budget amendment related to COVID-19 expenses.

The board also acted on the school calendars for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school year. There were not many changes.

“We are adhering to the state guidelines of a start date so we have to follow those regulations, but they were very similar to the school calendar to this year at this time,” Marriott said. 

Construction updates

District construction projects are on track, such as the high school addition. 

It's nice to see things physically taking shape, Marriott said. The slab is poured and framing should start soon. It will be another three weeks before the glass front is installed, weather depending. 

Snow removal bids were approved. The district had to seek bids from Columbia as it did not receive any local bids.