R-IV School Board Amends Safe Return Plan

The Willow Springs R-IV School Board met in regular session on Monday, December 13. Consent agenda items of note included the payment of regular bills, including the amount of $77,976.00 to Ledbetter Construction for the new construction on the storm-damaged bus barn. 
The board accepted several resignations including: Taylor Rothermich, paraprofessional; Karen Binkley, middle school science teacher; Dylan Carter, student and community liaison; and Larry Collins, middle school custodian. New employees approved were Barbara Bennett, custodian; Bonnie Mayberry, paraprofessional; and Carol Rinear, custodian. They also approved two substitute teachers: Kasey Wake and Keeli Land. 
Under action items, Superintendent Bill Hall briefed the board on the lawsuit the Missouri Attorney General filed, which Hall said “stripped” state- and by extension county- health departments from giving directives for masking to local school districts. As elected officials, local school boards across the state are reevaluating their Safe Return Plans in response to the lawsuit.
“They have basically placed this square in your lap,” Hall told the board.
Hall suggested the Board do what they can to “take the politics out of this mess” and defer to the opinions of local healthcare experts. To that end, school nurse Michelle Ferguson was invited to address the board.
As head of the district’s Health and Wellness Committee, Ferguson explained that there was a consensus to move away from contact tracing. Too many healthy kids are missing days at school because of contacts with positive cases. 
Given the legal issues involved, the local health departments are taking a step back from providing information and contact tracing to the school nurse. Howell County Health Department will send the nurse a letter identifying a positive case of a student or a staff member. Texas County Health Department will not provide such information at all. At the time of the meeting, Douglas County’s department had not decided their course of action. 
The decision whether to put a symptomatic pupil on COVID protocol will be the prerogative of the nurse’s office. There are no procedures in place to test students for COVID-19 at school. Testing is available for staff members.
The plan now reads:
Return to School After Exclusion:
Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and those experiencing symptoms consistent with
COVID-19, but have not been tested, may return to school when all of the following are met:
a. They have not had a fever for at least 24 hours (one full day) without the use of medicine that reduces fevers, and
b. Other symptoms have improved (for example—when your cough or shortness of breath have improved), and
c. At least ten (10) calendar days have passed since the symptoms first appeared, OR the individual provides a doctor’s note stating the date a student or staff member may return to school.
Household contacts of positive cases will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. On this subject, the plan now reads:
Contract Tracing
Upon being informed of a positive COVID case of a student or staff member, every effort will be made by the school nurses’ office to contact the parents of any close contacts to the positive case to inform them of possible exposure to allow the parent to monitor their child for symptoms.
Siblings or Other Students in the Household
*Vaccinated household members of a positive case who remain asymptomatic or household members of a positive case who have had a positive COVID test within the last three months will not be excluded from school.
*Unvaccinated household members of a positive case, regardless of whether the positive case is a student or not, will be excluded from school. It is highly recommended that household members who are positive but are not students or staff members, contact the school nurses' office if they have students in their home who are close contacts.
*The duration of the exclusion from school for household contacts will be determined by the school nurse on a case by case basis.
*If a household member of a positive case, regardless of vaccination status, develops symptoms of COVID-19, they will be excluded from school for 10-days from the onset of symptoms OR until they provide a doctor's note to the school stating the date they may return. They are also required to contact the school nurses' office to let the school nurse know when they become symptomatic.
*If a student/staff member or household member of a student/staff member is tested for COVID-19, the student/staff member and unvaccinated household members will need to stay home from school until test results are received.
Any mention of quarantine or CDC regulations has been removed from the Safe Return Plan. Mandatory masking on school buses has remained in the plan. Vaccination for staff members and students remains highly recommended, but not required. 
A motion by Dean Aye and seconded by Adam Webb to approve with changes the Safe Return to in Person and Continuity of Services Plan as presented effective immediately carried  with a vote of 7-0. The full text of the amended Safe Return Plan can be found on the school district’s website. 
Finally, the board voted to set Monday, January 10, 2022 at 6:50pm as the date and time for the open hearing to receive public comments on the district borrowing funds to complete the HVAC project in the middle school.
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