Board of Education votes ‘yes’ on virtual learning only for MVHS students

Kaleena Ricketts

Due to illness, short supply of teachers, board also votes for middle school to switch to hybrid schedule
On Thursday, Nov. 19, the Mt. Vernon School Board held their regular monthly board meeting, but this was no ordinary meeting.
The event was well attended and due to the nature of the what was to be discussed— required virtual learning thanks to COVID— it was also streamed on FB Live.
COVID has had a significant impact on how school officials have been forced to handle a multitude of situations in the daily goings on of education.
What has been said to be the “second wave” of COVID, has certainly hit Lawrence County, leaving the district, and so many others, with a shortage of teachers and substitute teachers.
Superintendent Scott Cook began by updating the board on the status of students and staff either in quarantine or with positive tests.
From the week of Oct. 23- Nov. 19, there were 25 positive cases—12 staff members and 13 students—and 222 individuals in quarantine, bringing totals thus far to 56 total positive cases and 572 quarantines.
For a district the size of Mt. Vernon, the impact seems significant.
Partly due to these numbers, the board voted unanimously, 7-0, to shift to a Level Three educational environment for grades 6-12. Since the beginning of the school year, they have been operating at a Level 2. The upgrade is due to the large amount of illness and absence of teachers and staff.
This proposal will cause a shift to distanced learning for grades 9-12 that will begin Monday, Nov. 30, and will continue through the end of the first semester on Friday, Dec. 18. The board also approved a shift to a hybrid schedule with four days in person and one day of distanced learning for the middle school, grades 6-8. Seventh grade students will be distanced on Monday and in-person Tuesday-Friday. Eighth grade students will be distanced on Wednesday and in-person Monday and Tuesday as well as Thursday and Friday. Sixth grade students will be distanced on Friday and in-person Monday through Thursday. The elementary school and the intermediate school will not see a change in their current schedule.
The board plans to revisit this scenario the week after Thanksgiving break, and if conditions have improved they may switch all grades back to Level 2.
 Cook reported that the COVID re-entry plan that has been put in place, included a provision for closing all buildings during a shift to Level 3, that included putting a stop to all extracurricular activities. This part of the plan was amended, however, on a 6-1 vote with member Jeremy Pendleton dissenting, due to the board reiterating that the shift was mostly because of staff shortages and not necessarily an overabundance of illness.
It was contended that student activities should continue, due to the importance that extracurricular activities have on the mental and emotional well-being of students. These situations will continue to be monitored.
“I feel really blessed to work and live in a community that is so passionate about doing what is best for our students. The discussions centered around what type of instructional delivery method we were going to use for the next few days and weeks were emotional and difficult and required the board to choose between two unfortunate scenarios,” Cook said. “With the rise in COVID cases in Lawrence County we have had profound impacts to our ability to adequately staff our classrooms and support positions. We are hoping that this brief pause for in-person learning at the high school and the adoption of a hybrid schedule at the middle school will help us navigate the holiday season and maintain in-person learning at our elementary and intermediate schools.”
In other business…
Updated quarantine recommendations set forth by Gov. Parson were discussed.
Last week, Parson released updated recommendations guiding quarantine protocols in regards to school settings for the state of Missouri and after meeting with the Lawrence County Health Department, the district reached an agreement to follow these protocols in Mt. Vernon Schools. These new guidelines will apply only to grades 6-12 who have operated under a mask mandate throughout the entire school year. New guidelines are as follows:
-When both the COVID positive person and those who are within 6 feet of the COVID positive person are appropriately masked (covering the nose and mouth; two-ply mask), students in that radius will not be considered a close contact for quarantine purposes at school. Cook believes that although this may help to avoid quarantines for students and staff at school, it will not change quarantine protocols for students and staff outside of school including extracurricular activities.
Parent Teacher Conferences
Principals from each building reported on Parent-Conference from the month of October. Although the format was much different due to COVID, all buildings reported participation at normal levels and suggested that the new virtual format may remain part of the approach to make contact with parents in the years to come.
Attendance Report for October
Seated numbers were 1,142.42 (93.93 percent), an increase of 12.68 students since September. Virtual students were 188. This brings the overall total to 1,330.42, up 4.31 from last year.
General Election to be held in April
The April 2021 General Election is scheduled for April 6. Filing dates for the board of education begin on Dec. 15 at 8 a.m. and end on Jan. 19 at 5 p.m. Two members will be elected for three-year terms. The terms of Danny Bowling and John Rutledge expire this April.
The next scheduled meeting of the Mt. Vernon R-V Board of Education will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, and the Regular December Meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17.


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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