REEDS SPRING, Mo. – Reed Springs School District is preparing for the new school year.
Superintendent Dr. Cody Hirschi says the district is using lessons learned during the last year to return students safely to the classroom.
“We hadn’t had any cases. We took off masks. Then right away we had cases. We went back into masks, so we had a little bit of a trial experience,” says Hirschi.
Students will be spaced out in classes, and there will be daily sanitation. Most people, however, are most curious about the district’s masking policy.
“Obviously, the biggest question that everybody’s had is the mask question, right? [It] really kind of feels almost more difficult of a decision this year just because it’s so divisive in our community. I mean you have so many strong, polarized opinions,” says Hirschi.
Dr. Hirschi says the district will follow the CDC’s guidance on masking and recommend, but not require, masking for students.
“The CDC officially has only one official mandate order, and that’s a requirement that we have masks on buses. If you look at the CDC language, everything else is a recommendation,” says Hirschi.
That could change throughout the year if a building reaches 8% of students and staff affected by COVID-19.
“As we evaluate buildings and see positivity rates if they do increase and if the number of students starts to get quarantined, then we will evaluate that and potentially go into a masking situation,” says Hirschi.
Dr. Hirschi says that he is following the advice of the local health department in the district’s safety guidelines, but he is also worried about students who could miss more time inside the classroom this year.
“You look at the amount of learning gaps that have been created because the number of students who have been quarantined. Even looking at our data last year, we had positive student cases. Obviously, none of those were hospitalized or deaths, fortunately, but the number of students we had miss school that was never sick. It was over a thousand. So how many hours of learning lost did kids have by being shut down?” says Hirschi.
Students and staff at Reeds Spring who are in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 may be quarantined by the health department if not vaccinated or properly masked.