Boonville School District reports no cases of COVID-19 after first week

Chris Bowie
A COVID-19 particle is pictured in this image provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If Boonville R-I Superintendent Sarah Marriott seemed a little excited about the first week of the 2020-21 school year, it’s easy to see why after reporting no cases of COVD-19.

With an average of 1,600 students yearly in Boonville schools, Marriott said the district may have a few kids quarantined because they have potentially been exposed, but to her acknowledge she is not aware that any of those students have returned with positive tests.

"We’re having a really good week,” Marriott said. “It’s exciting. I don’t want to jinx us because it is just one week, but right now we have no active cases with our students or staff. Everyone is doing everything that we expected them to do and we couldn’t ask for a better beginning of the year, so we hope and we are really working to make sure that we continue.”

The district is taking its process day by day as the school years starts to progress. Other schools, though, have already reverted to distance learning due to COVID-19 case numbers. This includes the Northeast R-VI district in Cairo and St. Mary’s in Glasgow, Marriott said. Slater and Marshall pushed back their starting dates, as well.

Thermal scanners are in each school in the Boonville district to check student temperatures once they enter the building, Marriott said. Every student at Laura Speed Elliott and Boonville High School are wearing masks, per district requirements.

“I know everyone was really nervous, but we are really pleased with our students,” Marriott said. “You can walk down the high school hallway or walk down LSE’s hallway and they all have a mask on. Everyone is being very compliant with it.”

Mask usage is option for students at the elementary level, but even there many students are wearing masks, she said.

Staff also are wearing masks. What was anticipated as a big issue, became a non-issue, Marriott said.

“We are very, very pleased and we thank our students and staff for that,” she said.

While the district does not yet have a case of COVID-19, that does not mean there never will be one. If there is a need to quarantine a class, it will depend on close contact exposure and following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Marriott said.

“We really look at were they in close contact — within six feet for greater than 15 minutes and if we have multiple students in a class that had close contact exposure,” she said. “We would then potentially quarantine an entire class just for safety, but that would have to be multiple students because we don’t want to disrupt the learning process.”

The district does not have a set number for close contacts yet to determine when to quarantine. This is due to a number of factors, including siblings in different school buildings, which could impact those buildings. The district is looking at it on a case-by-case or situation-by-situation basis, Marriott said.

“We don’t want to say in every instance that we are going to do it this way because there might be something else factoring in that would not be the best scenario,”she said. “We watch the numbers. We’re definitely looking at the number of students that have been exposed or that [test] positive, or staff members, and just trying to be very protective.”

The district also is working with the Cooper County Public Healt Center almost daily. The district’s health coordinator, Vicki Friedrich, constantly communicates with the health department regarding questions the district may have on quarantine practices, in case of potential student exposure, Marriott said.

The health center is working will all of the county’s school districts. It notifies the respective districts when a student is under quarantine, Health Administrator Melanie Hutton said.

“By law we can notify the schools if a kid is positive with a communicable disease whether it’s chicken pox, measles or whatever,”Hutton said. “At the end of the day after we’ve tallied all of our interviews, we will notify the schools that a student or students are on quarantine from what day to what day. The schools also call us back if there is not a kid on the list, but they have been told about a kid, so we’ll communicate back and forth. Those kids will then be arranged for online learning.”

Although the district at the time has no current cases, Hutton said that’s not the case when you talk about COVID-19 cases by school geographical boundaries in Cooper County. She said case counts include all individuals living within the geographical boundaries of a school district. These cases may or may not be school age children or employees.

There was a total of 76 cases as of Thursday in the Boonville School District geographical region. Pilot Grove had the next highest with 17, followed by Otterville at 13, Bunceton 6 and Otterville and Prairie Home each with 1.

Each school geographical boundary will be tallied daily for a monthly period, Hutton said.

“What we know so far is that kids aren’t sharing it among each other, not to say they can’t,”she said. “I think it’s too soon to say what the impact a school is going to be.”