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CPS Teacher, Staff Vaccinations Expected To Start Within Two Weeks

Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Peter Stiepleman said the district is “optimistic” a vaccination plan will be put into effect for teachers and staff within the next two weeks.

Stiepleman provided a COVID-19 update to the Columbia School Board at its work session Thursday. He went over substitute staffing statistics, an increase in the number of students and teachers out for isolation or quarantine, concerns from departments including transportation and technology and the vaccine rollout plan for teachers and staff.

The district will follow the state’s phased approach to vaccinations, beginning with faculty and staff 65 and older and those with preexisting conditions. Stiepleman said the district has worked with Boone Hospital Center to create an “equitable decision tree” for vaccinating district staff.

As of the meeting, 255 district employees have been vaccinated, including nursing staff and teachers who have contact with students at a higher risk of contracting the virus, district nurse Dana Jones told the board.

Responding to board member Chris Horn, Stiepleman said a public dashboard will be created to keep the public apprised of progress in vaccinating teachers and staff.

Stiepleman said the number of active substitute teachers is up to 280 from 225 earlier in the school year. An additional 189 people are undergoing substitute training. Stiepleman said the plan is to include substitute teachers in the vaccination plan. Bus drivers will also be included.

He also told the board that on Tuesday, when in-person classes started, the 14-day case rate per 10,000 people was 74.9. He presented the quarantine and isolation data for staff and students: from 72 employees Monday to 80 Wednesday and from 152 students Monday to 232 Wednesday.

Stiepleman briefed members on concerns from the transportation department. New routes are needed, he said, because 150 students were added Tuesday to the list of those requiring bus transportation. To address staffing concerns, Student Transportation of America, which handles busing for the district, brought in drivers from Kansas City.

“We have heard reports that compliance with masks (on buses) is not an issue. (Chief Financial Office Heather McArthur) authorized additional funding to provide masks on buses,” Stiepleman said.

On Tuesday, elementary school students returned to in-person learning on a four-days-a-week schedule. For the first time this school year, middle and high school students began in-person learning under a hybrid model that puts them in their school buildings two days a week, either Mondays and Tuesdays or Thursdays and Fridays.

Stiepleman said that on Tuesday, there were 54,000 Zoom sessions. Internet traffic was at 30% of the district’s capacity, which he called a positive indication.

The board’s discussion of COVID-19 updates concluded with several members expressing their gratitude to the teachers and staff during the reopening.

“We want you to know how grateful we are and how deeply we understand the difficulty of the task asked of you and how well you did it,” board President Helen Wade said.

No one came forward for public comment. Earlier this week, board Vice President Susan Blackburn said she will not seek a second three-year term on the volunteer board.