Local schools make investments to keep in-person learning safe
MISSOURI - While parents prepared to send their students back to school during a pandemic, local school districts prepared by adding new safety measures to their buildings.
Some of the added safety measures were as simple as purchasing face masks and extra cleaning supplies.
Chris Felmlee, Southern Boone County R-1 School District Superintendent said his district invested in multiple safety measures.
"We've invested in thermometers. We've invested in hand sanitizer, solutions to help us clean in the classroom, gloves, masks, all kinds of PPE," Felmlee said.
The district is also not allowing anybody except students and staff members to enter the building.
Other districts took more drastic measures to make sure they were able to offer in person learning.
Callaway County provided all their public schools with temperature reading cameras to ensure students and staff weren't coming to school with a fever.
"Our county was just wonderful in working that partnership," Kevin Hillman, South Callaway R-II Superintendent said.
South Callaway also provided teachers with PPE and put up clear shields in areas where they thought was necessary.
Paris R-II School District Superintendent Dr. Aaron Vitt said they removed all water fountains and replaced those with hands free water bottle refill stations. They also provided all students with a water bottle.
Dr. Vitt said they also purchased "sneeze guard" dividers, where they could not maintain 6-feet between desks. In addition to the dividers, they purchased UV-C lamps that kill germs to use at night in their classrooms.
"We thought that sounded like a very sound investment, so at the end of the day, when everything is said and done, we can use these lamps in our classrooms and they're going to sanitize and disinfect, in about as cost effective measure as we can" Dr. Vitt said.
He said the local community came together to make in-person learning possible.
"We had a school reopening committee that included community members, parents, our nurse, health department officials, teachers, support staff like bus drivers and custodians, as well as the city manager."
While a lot of the funding for the COVID-19 adjustments came from the CARES Act funding and local counties, these additional purchases still impacted districts' budgets.
"There is a lot of things we kind of put off that would be traditional purchases just because we didn't know about our budget. Nothing essential, but just those things about the unknown about where you're going to get money," Hillman said.
"There is also a lot of cost you didn't even think about. Just in the number of trash can liners we go through now compared to in the past with just the increased focus on kids washing their hands" Dr. Vitt said.
Dr. Vitt gave kudos to his teachers for their own creative ways to stay safe.
One speech teacher in the Paris school district, Lloyann Akers, works one-on-one with students. Dr. Vitt said her husband built a clear shield to put in her doorway, so students don't have to come into her small classroom, but can still meet face-to-face.
Southern Boone, South Callaway R-II and Paris-II superintendents all said their preparations for the school year have been successful this far.