R-2 directors approve ‘Safe Return Plan;’ discuss teacher COVID pay, new mask mandate

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 7/28/21

Gasconade County R-2 Board of Education

on July 26 discussed the District’s

Safe Return and Continuity Plan that relays

the COVID-19 protocol for parents,

students, staff, and teachers …

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R-2 directors approve ‘Safe Return Plan;’ discuss teacher COVID pay, new mask mandate

Posted

Gasconade County R-2 Board of Education
on July 26 discussed the District’s
Safe Return and Continuity Plan that relays
the COVID-19 protocol for parents,
students, staff, and teachers — including
mask requirements and vaccine standards.
The six board members who were
present at the meeting had distinct concerns
about whether a teacher or district
employee would be paid for forced leave
if they test positive for the virus, and if
that policy changes if the teacher or staff
member is not vaccinated.
Superintendent Dr. Jeri Kay Hardy
began the conversation by informing board
members that an email that afternoon
would change some of the verbiage in the
safety return plan.
“There is a mandate now that on all
public transportation, masks must be
worn,” Hardy began. “We have to adhere to
those guidelines. So any school transportation
— bus drivers, school cars — masks
must be worn.”
According to the safety plan, policy currently
says masks and personal protective
equipment (PPE) is a choice based on the
individual's comfort level.
“Wearing of masks and other PPE (1)
All students and staff will have the ability
to wear a mask or PPE in the school
building based on their comfort level and
choice. (2) Parents should teach students
appropriate usage. (3) If a mask or otherPPE is disruptive to the educational
environment the building administration
or teacher may call the parent/
guardian to discuss strategies to
ensure the safety of all students and
the learning process. (4) Students
and staff should not be singled out
or ridiculed for choosing to wear a
mask or PPE.”
Hardy also touched on the standard
last year where the district paid
teachers in quarantine.
“I spoke with the attorneys today.
Right now there are some districts
that are giving incentives, there are
some districts that say we are just
going to pay for your time-off for
10 days and there are other districts
that have stipulations — whether
you got the shot or didn’t get the
shot. That is something we need to
decide moving forward.”
New teachers are not eligible
for the Family Medical Leave Act
(FMLA) for 12 months. If a new
teacher contracts COVID-19 and
is out for 10 days, they have then
used all of their leave for the year
without other days.
“Do we continue with (paying
teachers who test positive)?” Hardy
asked. “Speaking with the health
department, as long as teachers are
maintaining their three-foot distancing
(reduced from six feet) they
wouldn’t be excluded — we do not
use quarantine anymore. We cannot
quarantine people from Walmart or
the fair. We can only exclude people
from school or school activities.”
Board members asked if the
teacher would have to be out for 10
or 14 days if they tested positive for
the virus. Hardy said it is 10 days
currently.
“As long as teachers maintain
their three-foot distance, we will not
place them in isolation,” Hardy said.
Director Jean Baker asked if
they would only be paying people
they send home due to a positive
test and Hardy agreed.
“As far as staff are concerned,
if they are quarantined because of
school, we are paying them? No
because they went to —,” Director
Molly Steinbeck began.
“Not because they went to the
fair,” Baker suggested.
Hardy said there is no way to
know where the staff member or
teacher contracted COVID-19 if
they tested positive. As long as they
maintained a three-foot distance
from others while in school, if
someone else tests positive, they
will not have to isolate or be excluded
(quarantine).
“If the students have stayed three
feet away, we do not have to exclude
them from school,” Hardy clarified
that the rule goes both ways.
Director Debbie Landolt asked
if they could get the plan updated
with the new verbiage. Hardy said
they could. She had only received
the notification about the changes
Monday afternoon at 5:05 p.m.
Steinbeck said the rules change
constantly.
“We don’t want to exclude anyone,”
Baker said about the verbiage
change.
Landolt asked how teachers
and staff would prove they are
vaccinated.
“Does that include proof of
showing a vaccine card?” she asked.
Hardy said that is up to the board.
They cannot ask students for a vaccine
card, but they could ask staff
to see their card. Or do they take
everyone at their word?
“Why would we ask that?” Director
Jason Crowe asked.
Steinbeck said so they wouldn’t
have to quarantine if they came into
contact with someone else who was
sick. She asked if they could call
the vaccine card something else.
Crowe suggested a “get-out-ofjail-
free card” and Board President
Glenn Ely suggested a “personal
choice card.”
According to the plan, “Vaccinations
at this time are not mandated.
(2) Vaccines are available at the
health department and through local
pharmacies for individuals 12 and
older. (3) Current recommendations
indicate those individuals who are
fully vaccinated will not need to
quarantine if exposed to an active
COVID-19 case.”
“Food services, because they
are dealing with food, will need
to mask up,” Hardy said. “We just
started back with meetings with the
health department,” Hardy said.
“But the biggest thing we need to
decide before school starts is are
we going to compensate teachers
if they get the virus.”
Landolt asked if they needed to
decide that at the meeting and Hardy
said before school began. Steinbeck
asked if they only pay the teacher
the first time. Some people last year
got it twice.
“That could become a huge
financial burden,” Steinbeck said.
Landolt suggested putting off the
decision until the Aug. 16 meeting.
Hardy said between now and Aug.
16 a lot of changes will be made to
the plan.
“The plan does talk about changes,
but there is an action requirement
here because of the ESSER3 funds,”
Hardy said. “It doesn’t mean the
plan can’t change.”
The board approved the safe
return plan with discussed changes
to the verbiage with a 6-0 vote.
The entire District Safe Return
and Continuity Plan 2021-22 is 13
pages long and can be read fully
on the district’s website at https://
www.dutchmen.us.

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