Columbia Public Schools Unanimously Votes to Approve 2021-22 Coronavirus Plan
The Columbia Public School Board voted unanimously Monday night to adopt the district’s 2021-22 Coronavirus plan.
Following procedural business and prior to the board’s vote, Superintendent Brian Yearwood presented data to show the impact that mitigation strategies – like masking, keeping students at home when sick, social distancing and vaccination – have had so far.
According to his presentation, 79.2% of staff within the district are fully vaccinated. That’s much higher than the overall rate for Boone County, which is 50.8% completely vaccinated, according to the Department of Health & Senior Services.
Yearwood also cited the youth – those between 12 and 17 – vaccination rate in the community: 53.5% have initiated the vaccine and 45.9% have completed the process.
He added that the overall positivity rate among staff and students has remained relatively low in light of the delta variant, which is further evidence that the mitigation strategies are helping.
But it wasn’t all good news. He went on to address some of the challenges that COVID-19 presents – like a shortage of essential staffers – and called for community action.
“If anyone out there has ever considered being a substitute teacher, a bus driver, paraprofessional or a classroom aide, there is no better time than now to apply," Yearwood said. “We need you. Alright? I'm thinking of driving the bus myself. I think it’d be fun.”
Yearwood added the district will continue to provide free COVID antigen tests to staff and students, and they are hoping to host student vaccine clinics in the fall.
“If anyone out there has ever considered being a substitute teacher, a bus driver, paraprofessional or a classroom aide, there is no better time than now to apply. We need you."
As the meeting proceeded, several community members came forward during public comment to thank the Board for prioritizing the health of staff and students over political pressure.
But COVID-19 wasn't the only thing on peoples' mind.
Rebecca Shaw, a parent to two CPS students and an organizer for CoMo for Progress, brought attention to the removal of a Black Lives Matter flag at Rock Bridge High School, as well as LGBTQ+ posters taken down at Smithton Middle School, earlier this school year.
She said the board’s silence on the matter speaks louder than words.
“Silence is the absence of care," Shaw said. "Silence is the state of neutral. Silence can be as harmful as hate. Social justice issues are education issues.”
According to Shaw, over 600 Columbia residents, students and staff members have signed a petition asking the board to reinstate the displays and create a procedure to allow students to challenge these removals in the future.
The petition reads: “The removal of these supportive symbols has sent a harmful message to the marginalized children and staff of these schools, showing a lack of support in their learning environment by both CPS administration and by the community.”
You can read the full CoMo for Progress petition – here.