HIGGINSVILLE — Lafayette County C-1 school board members tabled their decision whether to move the start date of school past Labor Day and cancel fall sports — two recommendations given by the Lafayette County Health Department. School board president Benton Williams said the district is awaiting final guidance today, Aug. 7, from county health officials. A recent policy change from the Missouri State High School Activities Association also factored in the delay, according to assistant superintendent Aaron Knipmeyer.
“Yesterday (Wednesday), they (MSHSAA) just released guidance that if a district chooses to go completely virtual to start the year, they can now participate in fall activities, before that they told us “no.” So, that now gives us an option,” Knipmeyer told KMZU. “We feel there are ways we could certainly do things more safely than what we’ve done in the past. There’s a spectrum between doing things exactly as they have been and completely shutting everything down. Hopefully, we want to land somewhere on that spectrum that does justice to our constituents, but keeps everyone safe and healthy.”
“Our plan is to start fall sports, unless told otherwise,” Knipmeyer says. Practice officially begins Aug. 10.
A decision will likely be made on Monday, he says. The start of school is scheduled for Aug. 24.
Prior to the board meeting, around 50 people attended a public hearing, many voicing support for students to return to class and allowing fall sports to start as planned.
“I believe we should have the chance to allow our children to play sports. I think that should be our choice,” say mother-of-three Melissa Gann-Huseynov. “I could see it was hurting my kids, by just being locked up in our house. They need activities; they need to be out — that’s what they’re used to.”
A hybrid model of in-school and online learning was approved by the board for all students for the fall quarter. Students will attend class two days a week and receive remote learning for three days. No students will be in school buildings on Friday, to allow for deep cleaning and disinfection. One parent says the hybrid plan “was an injustice to our kids. They want to go back to school.” She says it also places a burden on essential workers, like herself, to find “safe places for my kids 5 days a week.”
Some parents voiced frustration with the county health department’s inability to provide a breakdown of age groups, particularly youth, confirmed with COVID-19 in Lafayette County. The health department told KMZU recently it could not release that information because individuals could be identified, due to the smaller population of the county.
“If we’re going to take the advice from the Lafayette County Health Department and they’re going to put out numbers and percentages out here like a scare tactic, they should be able to answer two simple questions: How many tests (were administered) prior to July 4th and how many tests were performed after July 4th? They could not answer it,” says resident Mike Mason.
Health officials cite a 65% increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past 30 days, ending on Aug. 3. The county data indicates an outbreak in July with 58 new cases that month, roughly a third of its total cases of 168. Six new cases were added on Thursday for a total of 31 currently infected with COVID-19, according to numbers released by the health department.
On Thursday, Lafayette County Health Department issued a face covering order in public and private indoor buildings and outdoor places, like parks, when social distancing is not possible. It goes in effect on Monday, Aug. 10. The order excludes schools and school-related activities. That guidance would comes from the county’s school districts.