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DHSS and DESE Address Frequently Asked Questions about School Reopening Health Guidance

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 15:00

The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released a document today that answers frequently asked questions (FAQs) about K-12 school reopening health-related guidance. The document aims to provide additional clarity and consistency for Missouri school leaders and public health officials as they make decisions about school reopening strategies at the local level. There are no statewide health mandates related to K-12 school reopening being issued at this time, and it is important to note that local school boards and local jurisdictions have the authority to implement more stringent or less restrictive preventative measures than those listed in this document. 

Across the country, the majority of health officials, educators and families seem to agree: they want to reopen schools this fall, but in a way that continues to protect public health. “While closing school buildings in March was necessary, there are a number of serious consequences that can come from our students not attending school in-person,” Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven said. “These implications are being considered along with the continued risk of COVID-19. Therefore, school leaders and local health officials are working thoughtfully to reopen our schools – knowing that school operations must take place differently to better protect public health and combat the spread of the virus.” 

The FAQs addressed in the document released today center around the proactive strategies that K-12 school leaders can implement to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and best protect their students, staff members and communities, including recommended protocols regarding screening, physical distancing and face coverings. DHSS and DESE leaders are working alongside a group of Missouri’s top pediatric infectious disease doctors to quickly answer additional questions about reactive strategies and procedures for K-12 schools. Those procedures that continue to be discussed include: how to isolate symptomatic students or staff members when they are at school, how to handle positive cases of COVID-19 and how to best be prepared to assist local health officials with contact tracing efforts. Answers to those important questions will be added to this FAQ document as soon as possible. 

In May, representatives from DHSS and DESE worked with the Missouri School Boards’ Association to publish the “Pandemic Recovery Consideration: Re-Entry and Reopening of Schools” document, which contains more thorough and detailed information for school leaders to review and consider when developing their local plans for returning to onsite teaching and learning.