State teachers group seeks ‘COVID-19 Exposures, Closures’ reports

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 9/18/20

Gasconade County R-2 Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner said that if the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) orders districts to submit information to a “COVID-19 Exposures and …

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State teachers group seeks ‘COVID-19 Exposures, Closures’ reports

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Gasconade County R-2 Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner said that if the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) orders districts to submit information to a “COVID-19 Exposures and Closures” report, he would comply.

“I will be submitting information to DESE, along with whoever else they tell me to,” Garner said. “If DESE told us we needed to meet those requirements, we would do it, but we would have to get that from the health department.”

A Missouri teachers group is advocating DESE and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to require school districts to report COVID-19 incidents and create a public register of school-related COVID-19 exposures. According to the group, parents need to know about the exposures and closures to make informed decisions.

“Parents must be able to make informed decisions about their children’s education and well-being,” said Phil Murray, president of the Missouri National Education Association (NEA), in a press release. “We have reported 59 incidents of exposure to COVID-19. It is extremely distressing because we know it doesn’t capture the true scope of school-related exposures, and signals the potential for increased risk as children return to school.”

Information about local exposures come from local health departments. The Gasconade County R-2 School District is in two counties and therefore receives exposure and quarantine advisories from both the Gasconade and Franklin county health departments. However, each health department determines the amount of information they will release to the public.

“We know who was in the class or on the bus if it was a class or bus exposure, but as far as attendance goes, we don’t know who is being quarantined,” Garner said.

The health departments do not provide the district with a list of names or those that have been asked to self-quarantine due to possible exposure.

The “COVID-19 Exposures and Closures” report would combine information from educators, parents, school districts, and local media into one format and be accessible for parents, educators, and the public to visit any time.

According to the NEA, submissions to the report should contain the specific school building or school activity where the exposure occurred and the date of the COVID-19 incident; the number of students or staff exposed; actions the school district is taking to inform parents and staff; and safety precautions the district is implementing to limit exposure and spread to others. Updated weekly the report is at MNEA.org.

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