COLUMBIA- The Columbia Public Schools Board of Education will vote Monday night on whether to send students back to school or not.
Last week, board members discussed options for students and teachers to return to the classroom, including the idea of different return dates for various age groups.
The phased-in approach would allow elementary students to return as early as next Monday, Oct. 19. Middle school students would return on Nov. 5 and high school students would return to in-person classes on Jan. 19, the first day of the second semester.
CPS Superintendent Dr. Peter Stiepleman also presented the option of having students return to in-person learning, four days a week. The plan also includes students staying at home on Wednesdays, so buildings can be cleaned.
“When you talk about being able to take one more day to clean to try to make up for our inability to social distance,” Dr. Stiepleman said at last week’s meeting. “I can’t say it meets the same threshold but it certainly boosts our ability to keep things clean.”
CPS’ school year was scheduled to begin Aug. 25 but was delayed after district administrators recommended a start date after Labor Day. Virtual classes began Sept. 8.
CPS parent John Potter spent his Monday outside the CPS administration office, colleting signatures until 2 p.m. Potter said he received over 500 signatures on a petition for CPS to resume an in-person learning option. He plans to present the signatures tonight at the board meeting.
“My end goal is just to provide a path for people who want to be in-seat full-time and for people who want to be home full-time,” Potter said. “I think if this is a threat to you, or you feel like it’s a threat to you, you should have the option to do what you feel safe for your children. Just like I need the option to do what’s safe for my children.”
CPS mother Lindsey Campbell is excited for tonight’s decision. She said keeping her children online has added extra expenses.
“We are very excited to get them back into school and the vote today. We hope that they will vote in seat it will effect our kids and family drastically,” Campbell said.
Not all families are in favor for returning to in-person classes. Mandy Williamson’s son attends Lange Middle School. She is nervous for her son to return because he has asthma.
“I will maybe talk to his doctor and note that he needs to stay virtual. Even though we didn’t choose that option in the first place,” Williamson said.
As of Oct. 11, the CPS 14-day case rate per 10,000 people was at 33.5.
According to CPS policy, if the 14-day case rate is below 10, then the district will conduct in-person learning. If the 14-day case rate is between 10 and 50, the school district will use with a hybrid learning plan. Finally, if the 14-day case rate is greater than 50, the school district will switch to fully virtual learning. When school started on Sept. 8, the 14-day case rate was at 90.
The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. Monday. Watch it here: