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Boonville R-I School Board right in line with new guidelines announced by Parson

Chris Bowie
Boonville Daily News

The Boonville School District already was ahead of the game when Gov. Mike Parson announced changes to school health guidelines Nov. 10 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The modifications announced by Parson are essentially the same ones the Boonville School District board approved in October, Superintendent Sarah Marriot said. 

The large number of students and school staff members quarantined in recent weeks in Missouri school district has presented a significant strain for education, school leaders, and Missouri families alike, Parson said in a news release. 

“We know that COVID-19 is not going away soon, so it is important that we continue to evaluate the guidance we’re issuing at the state level to make sure our procedures are sustainable for the next several months,” he said.

Work on updating the guidelines was done through the Missouri Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education and Health and Senior Services. The policy updates meant school districts could continue to provide high-quality education to students, while still keeping them, teachers and other school staff members safe, Parson said. 

The Boonville board adopted the quarantine trial, as directed by the Cooper County Health Department, on Oct. 21. 

The trial was for students identified as close contacts and if they were potentially exposed to a COVID-19 positive patient at school. If both people were wearing a mask and the identified close contact did not have any signs or symptoms of COVID, then the close contact would not have to quarantine at home. The student or staff member could continue to attend school, Marriott said.

Students in sixth through 12th grade also are required to wear masks when social distancing is not possible. 

Five students and five staff members were out of school on Nov. 11 after testing positive for COVID-19. 

“The parents are doing a good job of keeping kids home this year, too, when they’re not feeling well,” Marriott said. “They’re really monitoring for any symptoms and keeping kids home and I don’t think they’re having to send a lot of kids home because they’re staying home when they should.”

The district is not necessarily doing anything different or better than anyone else, Marriott said. Staff continue to follow the health guidelines as they are written. There are worries about other districts not following them completely, though.

“Maybe we just haven’t hit our peak. That’s always a worry, too, is that it just hasn’t hit our school, and it’s going, too” Marriott said. “I think the biggest concern why a lot of schools are having to close right now is because of staffing." 

Those school districts do not necessarily have high numbers of COVID cases, but do have many staff and students out because of quarantine periods. Those who test positive for COVID-19 have to isolate from other people. Those who potentially were exposed have to quarantine to monitor for symptoms.

Mask wearing, adequate social distancing and proper hand hygiene continue to be important in combatting the spread of COVID-19.

School districts are encouraged to monitor health data and to contact both the state's education and health departments at the first sign of a rise in cases, the state's education Commissioner Margie Vandeven said. 

“We want to be sure we’re working with the state health leaders to monitor this change in guidance and make any adjustments necessary to keep students and school personnel safe as we move forward,” she said.

The policy change is an effort to keep schools open. Parson and his administration continue to emphasize that Missourians must work together to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by implementing the three key mitigation strategies: wearing a mask, social distancing, and hand washing.

This infographic explains the change in health policy for school districts in Missouri and how students or staff will have to isolate, quarantine or self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.