JASPER/NEWTON COUNTY, Mo. – Missouri Governor Mike Parson announces changes to some COVID guidelines for schools across the state. The announcement came at his news conference today.
Governor Mike Parson says the new guidelines are a result of efforts from the state combined with health officials, who have determined the overall spread of COVID-19 within Missouri schools is low. “This new guidance applies if a district or charter school has a mask mandate in place and all individuals are wearing their masks correctly during the time of exposure, as long as they do not begin to show symptoms, those close contacts may continue to attend school in person.”
The plan is similar to the one adopted by the Newton County Health Department in September, which Administrator Larry Bergner says he’s pleased the state is moving forward with keeping kids in school. “Newton County came out first with modified guidelines because I saw the data was trending that way and I felt strongly that the data would continue to trend that way and I’m thankful that it did.”
We spoke with three area superintendents on how they feel about the change. Dr. Melinda Moss with Joplin Schools says it should help reduce staff workloads. “If we can cut down on the number of quarantines and do it safely, then that is going to be helpful and it makes us even more aware for the need for staff and students when they cannot socially distance to be wearing their mask.”
Dr. Mark Baker with the Carthage School District says it’s a win for students. “Sometimes it feels like we’re quarantining kids from education not from COVID, and it’s very critical to have these kids in class, online works for some but not for all and we think this is a positive change, we’re still going to be very safe, we’ll still have protocols in place, we’re always concerned about the safety of our kids and our staff and continue to follow that.”
Dr. Jim Cummins in Neosho says they initially decided against the Newton County guidance because of push back at the state level, but is pleased to see the state push forward. “We’re excited about it, it’s what we’ve been asking for, so we will start looking at it immediately, we’ve already had meetings internally.”
All three superintendents tell us in the past they’ve had several calls from parents of students who have been quarantined multiple times, yet never got sick. The superintendents hope the new guidelines will reduce the number of unnecessary quarantines.