Quick News: Superintendent Warns Of Possible Switch To Virtual Learning, Governor Releases Updated Guidelines For Schools
Grain Valley Schools released a message from Superintendent Marc Snow on the afternoon of November 12th, warning parents of a possible switch to 100% virtual learning due to COVID-19 related staffing shortages. The district reported 54 (8.31%) of staff and 239 (5.19%) of students are isolating or quarantined. The message in its entirety is provided below.
Grain Valley School District Community,
I reach out to you today to alert you to new developments that may lead us to a switch to 100% Virtual Learning for some or all of our classrooms or schools. Keeping all schools and programs adequately staffed has become a serious challenge. We are working to avoid any such disruption, but I feel a responsibility to alert you that it is becoming a struggle to operate all schools with all services in place.
Our Eastern Jackson County region is experiencing a significant increase in new positive cases of COVID-19, leading to a sharp increase in the number of staff and students in our schools and departments who must quarantine or isolate. Through weekly meetings with regional health, government, and school district officials, I stay up to date on what is occurring in other school districts and communities in our area. We are not alone in dealing with the challenges associated with increased positivity rates in our area.
Today, 54 (8.31%) of our staff and 239 (5.19%) of our students are isolating or quarantined. Fourteen of these staff and 63 of these students are out due to contact tracing of positive cases in our schools since Monday. Our school substitute fill rate is at 73% for the week, down significantly from the 89% fill rate we had last week. Today’s fill rate is 64%, which is critically low. If not improved, such a low fill rate makes keeping all schools open for in-person learning unsustainable. We expect some relief tomorrow as our middle schools and high school do not host students in person on Fridays.
Our elementary students are each bringing home a Chromebook device this weekend with instructions for families to practice logging on and completing a learning task virtually. This is an important practice run for families, teachers, and our support operations in the event we have a school closure due to COVID or severe weather. We ask these students to bring the devices back to school on Monday.
Despite so many of our staff and students in isolation and quarantine, the virus does not appear to be spreading in our classrooms. We know this through the contact tracing that occurs with each confirmed positive case. I am very proud of everyone for wearing masks at school, practicing social distancing when possible, and washing hands frequently. I urge any employee who feels ill or learns they have been exposed to someone with COVID to stay home and for families to do the same with their children.
This morning, Governor Parson hosted a press conference, accompanied by health officials and the leader of Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The governor suggested new options for school safety protocols related to responding to positive cases in schools. We will review these new recommendations and communicate any resulting changes.
We will continue to do our best to hold onto our in-person learning for preschool and elementary students, and hybrid learning for our middle school and high school students. We will keep everyone updated and appreciate your continued understanding and support.
Dr. Marc Snow
Superintendent of Schools
Superintendent Snow referred to updated protocols for schools released by Governor Mike Parson this morning. The Governor's office stated the large number of students and school staff members quarantined in recent weeks has presented a significant strain for educators, school leaders, and Missouri families alike, necessitating the update.
“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,” Parson said.
“We have been working hard with DESE and DHSS to find a solution that allows us to continue providing the high-quality education our students deserve while still keeping them, our teachers, and all school staff members safe.”
Under the updated guidance, proper mask wearing may now prevent individuals from being identified as close contacts in K-12 schools that have implemented a mask mandate. This means that if both individuals at school – the person diagnosed with COVID-19 and the person exposed to the positive case – have masks on and are wearing them correctly, the individual exposed does not need to quarantine.
Exposed individuals should self-monitor for symptoms and stay home at the first sign of illness. They should also continue to wear a mask at all times to further reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus. The person who tests positive for COVID-19 is still required to isolate at home.
Close contacts in K-12 schools should continue to quarantine at home for 14 days if (1) their school does not require students and staff to wear masks, or (2) the mask was not being worn appropriately by either the person diagnosed with COVID-19 or the person who was exposed.
Responding to the updated protocols released this morning, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas stated he would not recommend Kansas City schools follow the updated guidelines.
"Based upon the advice of our Health Director and given the increasing uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 in our community, we respectfully cannot recommend schools in Kansas City follow the updated non-quarantine guidance shared from Jefferson City today.
Masks continue to be one of the best ways to slow the spread of this virus, and I hope the governor’s acknowledgment of their benefit will encourage more to wear them. Still, masks are not a substitute for proper quarantine measures in schools or elsewhere—particularly as we’ve seen a concerning spike in cases over the past several months," Lucas said.