SPS, Area Higher Education Leaders Optimistic As School Resumes In A Pandemic
School is off to a great start in Springfield, despite the pandemic, according to local education leaders.
Director of Health Services for Springfield Public Schools, Jean Grabeel, said the start of school this fall looks much different than fall of 2020 when students were in class just two days a week. This year, school started with students going to class in person five days a week. Springfield Public Schools has a mask requirement in place.
“For me that’s a major celebration,” said Grabeel, “and it’s because we’ve continued to do all these mitigation strategies.”
Since the first day of school on August 23, SPS has identified 64 COVID-19 positive cases, according to its superintendent, Dr. Grenita Lathan. Of those, 57 are students, and eight are staff. Those cases have resulted in the quarantining of 349 students out of 24,000 in the district. Eighty-eight of those cases were able to do modified quarantine, which allows students to remain in the classroom but not to participate in extracurricular activities.
“Our masking requirement has significantly reduced the need to quarantine large numbers of students and staff members,” said Lathan.
Area higher education leaders are also optimistic as they’re seeing significantly fewer cases of COVID-19 than they did just after the start of school in fall of 2020.
David Hall, director of University Safety at Missouri State University, they’ve seen a significant reduction in cases from this time last year. There have been 16 confirmed cases in the last seven days.
Nearly 60 percent of students living in on-campus housing are vaccinated, and he said he’d like to see that number increase.
“The overwhelming majority of faculty and staff are fully vaccinated,” he said.
The university’s dashboard shows that 78.22 percent of faculty, staff and administrators are vaccinated against COVID-19, 58.2 percent of students living in on-campus housing are vaccinated and 35.9 percent of all students enrolled at MSU are vaccinated.
MSU is fully open for in-person learning, and masks are required in all campus buildings.
Tim Cloyd, president of Drury University, said fall break will be extended by one day because 70 percent of Drury students are now vaccinated against COVID-19. The university was able to open fully for the fall semester.
He said all students who are unvaccinated are required to be tested one a week, and all student athletes are tested once a week as well.
Michael Colestead, vice-president for University Advancement at Evangel University, said they required all unvaccinated students to be tested for COVID-19 before they could move into campus housing. Two tested positive. As of Tuesday, only one person living in the dorms was positive for COVID.
He said 91 percent of Evangel faculty and 68 percent of staff is vaccinated against the illness.
Mark Miller, spokesman for Ozarks Technical Community College said they vaccinated more than 50 people at an on-campus clinic. OTC brought back a mask requirement, and he said most students have been compliant.
The school plans to go ahead with student picnics since they will be held outside.
The director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department Katie Towns said the vaccine will allow schools to eventually get back to normal. She encourages more people to get their shots, not only to protect themselves but also to protect children under age 12 who aren’t yet eligible to be vaccinated.
“Along with the health impacts caused by this virus, COVID-19 can cause students to miss out on important milestones,” she said. And she said dozens of students had to miss out on the critical first days of school because they were close contacts of someone who tested positive.
To find out where to get a COVID-19 vaccine, visit vaccine417.com or call (417) 874-1211.