Camdenton R-III votes to end all school COVID protocols

Mitch Prentice, Joyce Miller
newsroom@lakesunonline.com
Camdenton R-III School District.

Despite a board member's request to table the vote until a teacher survey could be completed, the Camdenton R-III school board voted in favor of ending all COVID protocols Monday night. The prior request's motion was denied before the final vote on the matter was completed. 

The ruling came after a night of discussion by community members and Camdenton R-III staff. Opening the public comment portion, Teacher's association of Camdenton committee members Melissa Jackson and Clara Bennion approached the board, asking that an updated survey could be completed before the vote. This would update the statistics that were previously done in October, showcasing staff and teacher approval of COVID protocols. 

Further public comment was heard by a number of community members, expressing frustrations with the district's COVID protocols. One resident mentioned how her children dealt with the rules differently depending on which district building they were inside and asking that the board at least come forth with better consistency on the matter. This was a common theme among public comments moving forward. 

When the discussion made its way back to the board members, an initial request was made to table the vote on rescinding the protocols until the previously mentioned survey of teachers was completed. This motion was denied. Instead, another motion was made to rescind any and all COVID guidelines, recommendations and restrictions including masks on the move or any mask requirements, contract tracing including asymptomatic students and staff, and to make masks purely optional for district-wide use effective immediately. 

According to stats from the district, COVID-19 has not gone away. For the week ending April 9, Camdenton reported 2 staff members were quarantined along with 63 students. Of those, 11 students positive for the virus. No staff reported a positive test. The data was retrieved prior to the district removing all COVID-19 policies and protocols from the Camdenton School District website. 

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is not tracking the mitigation strategies in use at local education agencies across the state, and how long those measures are in effect. Therefore, DESE could not provide data.

However, DESE's chief communication officer Mallory McGown said the state is aware these conversations are happening among school leaders and local boards of education across the state.

"What I can share is that the importance of maintaining mitigation strategies in schools – because they are proving to be effective in ensuring in-person learning opportunities can continue to be available to students – was discussed at length by both DESE and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, as well as the pediatric infectious disease experts we continue to collaborate with, at our monthly stakeholder webinar last week," McGowin said.  In that conversation, leaders at the state level and health experts all agreed that this is not the time to waver or become lax in implementing policies related to masking, distancing, etc.

The vote ended with a 4-3 vote in favor of ending said protocols. Those in favor: Gail Griswold, Callie Henze, Brian Butts and Troy Risner. Against, Courtney Hulett, Nancy Masterson and Eric Walter.

In a press release sent out by the Board of Education Tuesday, they confirmed the decision and also noted that the district would monitor the cases in the community and would address the issue if there were any notable spikes.