Back to School Across Missouri
Wed, 08/26/2020 - 11:49am admin
Sen. Mike Cunningham (R-33)
All across Missouri, children are heading back to school. In a normal year, August brings new clothes, a trip to the store for supplies and hopeful anticipation of new experiences and the joy of reuniting with friends. This year, all of those things are mixed with apprehension and uncertainty. The threat of COVID-19 makes the start of the school year different from any we’ve experienced in the past.
Each school district in Missouri has weighed the risks of COVID-19 against the need to get children back into structured classrooms. For many children, the local school provides much more than ABCs, science and math. Schools have become a one-stop source of essential services for at-risk kids, providing nutrition and mental health support for countless children whose home life is not ideal. But even children from the best homes need the social interaction that comes from spending each day with other children and nurturing adults.
While some schools in larger communities may offer families a choice of in-person learning or virtual classrooms, most schools within the 33rd Senatorial District will operate with children at their desks and a teacher at the blackboard. To help facilitate the return to the classroom, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has provided each school district with guidance about limiting exposure to COVID-19 and appropriate responses if the virus is confirmed in the schools. You can find details about DESE’s recommended procedures at www.dese.mo.gov, or visit the website of your local district for specific information about your child’s school.
We all worry about the COVID-19 pandemic, but I try to put the risk in perspective. The eight counties I represent in the Missouri Senate have a population of nearly 170,000 people, but fewer than 700 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported here. Put another way, roughly 1% of the 69,000 COVID-19 cases in Missouri came from the 33rd Senatorial District. No part of the state is immune from the pandemic, but I’m convinced the odds of encountering the virus are much higher elsewhere. In fact, Dr. Randall Williams, the head of Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), recently stated that nearly half of all reported cases came from just three counties, all of which are far-removed from our area.
This is no time to let our guard down, however. I encourage everyone to teach their children the importance of washing hands and avoiding close contact with others. Social distancing doesn’t come naturally to children, but they must learn that now is not the time for hugs or rough and tumble play. Also, if anyone in your family is sick or shows any COVID-19 symptoms, you and your children should stay home. When in doubt, talk to officials at your child’s school and ask their advice.
The threat of COVID-19 is real, and our children will likely have a greater chance of contacting the virus as they go back to school. In my opinion, the benefits of in-person classes outweigh that risk, however. That’s not just me saying that. No less authority than Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation’s leading expert on COVID-19, says our children should head back to school, if possible. I agree. I applaud all the teachers and school administrators who will do the hard work reopening our schools. I thank the custodians and lunchroom staff that keep the school clean and our children fed. I also complement the students for their willingness to adapt and stay focused through what has clearly been a very difficult time in their young lives. Finally, I appreciate the parents for the trust they place in local educators. Together, we’ll get through this. We always do.
It is my great honor to represent the citizens of the 33rd Senatorial District. Although the Legislature has adjourned for 2020, I remain your senator throughout the year. If there’s anything that I can do to assist you, please feel free to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.