R-7 to ask the community for help in deciding how to proceed with COVID precautions

Rossetti: ‘It’s about keeping our community together rather than tearing it apart’

This story is being corrected to say that students testing NEGATIVE (not positive) get to stay in school.

Community input about how to update COVID-19 precautions is now being sought by the Webb City R-7 School District.

The district’s plan is being updated in light of several factors, including:

• A current surge in the number of students testing positive or being in contact with those testing positive.

• The Jasper County Health Department is no longer able to tell the district how to isolate positive or close-contact students. This is based on a Nov. 22 judge’s ruling that it’s unconstitutional for the state to grant local health departments the authority to issue health orders. The district has received a letter from Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt which states, 

“Under this judgment, all mask mandates, quarantine orders, and other public health orders that are based on any of the invalidated regulations or issued outside the protections of the Missouri Administrative Procedure Act are null and void. We have advised local public health authorities today to stop enforcing and publicizing any such orders immediately. You also should stop relying on, enforcing, or publicizing any such orders immediately. 

In addition, state law does not delegate authority to school officials to issue mask mandates, quarantine orders, or other public health orders. Your school district should stop enforcing and publicizing any such orders immediately. 

Failure to follow the court’s judgment may result in enforcement action against you to remove orders the court has determined are unconstitutional and illegal. We encourage you to take immediate action to remove all unconstitutional and illegal orders.”

Superintendent Tony Rossetti received permission to “reach out to our community to affirm our plan or amend it. We need to go back and ask for input from our staff and community.”

Meanwhile, the School Board on Tuesday approved a temporary update to the Cardinal Comeback Plan, knowing that survey data will be available at the Jan. 11 meeting to help guide decisions. The survey will likely be posted on the district’s website

Kevin Cooper, assistant superintendent for business operations, said the county health department no longer has the authority to officially tell district officials which students and staff need to be quarantined but can give recommendations.

He highlighted several plan changes:

– Vaccinated students and staff members are not listed as being in close contact to someone testing positive.

– School visitors are allowed to go to the office.

– Volunteers are allowed to assist staff members but not be in classrooms or work with students.

– Parents can bring lunches for their children.

– Water fountains can be used.

– Small-group learning is allowed on a limited basis.

– Large assemblies are being allowed.

– Masks are available, not required in school. However, they are required on buses because that is a federal regulation.

It was mentioned there are options which weren’t available when the pandemic began, including the fact that all students are eligible to be vaccinated. Students can be tested for free at school and if they test negative they can stay.

‘ALARMING DAY’

It has been assumed until now that students were primarily being exposed outside of the classroom.

But Cooper told board members he’d had an “alarming day” because he learned there are five positive students in the same middle school class – plus the teacher.

He said one of those students reported to have not been feeling well. Two others admitted having a headache and fever.

The most frustrating thing, he said, is that this means parents “are still sending their (sick) kids to school.”

Cooper provided current statistics indicating more students throughout the district are testing positive.

Board member Dave Collard said, “We’re going to see what happens in January after two weeks off (for the Christmas break).

“We trust the community to help us make decisions,” he added.

Although not perfect, Rossetti said a survey will give everyone an equal voice on how to proceed. 

“It’s about keeping our community together rather than tearing it apart.”

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