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St. Joseph School District in early stages of examining guidelines for reopening

St. Joseph School District superintendent Dr. Doug Van Zyl said the district is not going to rush back into opening the schools and that their goal is to keep students and staff safe.

Posted: May 13, 2020 12:03 PM
Updated: May 13, 2020 12:09 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The coronavirus pandemic has canceled school for the rest of the year throughout the nation. Tens of millions of students are continuing to learn from home and as the economy begins to reopen school doors remain shut.

However, the St. Joseph School District is already planning for what they will do in the fall.

"We haven't even finished this school year but we've already been talking about what does the summer look like and what does next fall look like,” St. Joseph superintendent Dr. Doug Van Zyl said.

Online learning will continue through the summer and St. Joseph school buildings will remain closed, but what the fall will look like? That is still open for discussion.

"We’re not going to rush it. We’re not going to be out on the bleeding edge so to speak and be the first ones jumping back in. We want to make sure that our students are safe, our staff members are safe." Van Zyl said.

Van Ayl says the Missouri School Boards Association published nearly 100 pages of suggestions.

"Each district has the flexibility to take a look at what they need,” Van Zyl said.

Suggestions like lunch in classrooms, year-round school, alternating school schedules to limit groups in the buildings, gym, music, recess, sports, all split into smaller and staggered groups while some of those activities are nixed for safety all together, and lots and lots of cleaning.

"Our district is going to be vastly different than some of the districts around us just based on the sheer number of students and schools that we have," Van Zyl said.

Van Zyl says a re-entry committee will take a look at the suggestions and develop a plan. The committee will have district administrators, public health officials, teachers staff and parents.

"They are the folks that have to be comfortable with what plans we are putting in place in order for their students to come back to join us," Van Zyl said.

St. Joseph schools have been closed for a month and a half. In march and through April, schools across Missouri closed one by one. Then the state told schools to stay closed for the rest of the year.

At that point in time, the number of COVID-19 deaths had spiked in Missouri to 77.

A month later, 524 people had died in the state.

"Month by month and probably even have to go week by week because this is still a changing process for all of us." Van Zyl said.

Schools hinge on what is going on locally including whether big employers are seeing a spike in cases.

"We've had parents and staff members share some concerns about that so we are going to have to monitor that,” Van Zyl said.

No matter what the back-to-school committee decides Van zyl says school will look different.

"I don't think you can go through something like this and think you are just going to go back to the way it was because again we have to be reflective in this process and say 'what did we learn from it,' 'how does this impact what we do in our schools,’ 'how does this impact if this were to come back up in the fall or the winter like there's the possibilities', 'how are we going to do that differently next time around?’”

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Clouds will slowly build into the area late tonight as a cold front approaches the area. A few areas of sprinkles could develop overnight as the front approaches. The front will move through tomorrow morning into the afternoon bringing some slightly cooler temperatures. Most of tomorrow will be dry and sunny with highs in the upper 60s and lower 70s. Highs will be in the 60s throughout the rest of the work week with dry and sunny conditions. Rain chances will start to increase overnight Saturday into Sunday. Highs will be in the 70s to start next week.
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