KANSAS CITY, Mo. — While teachers are juggling in-person and virtual learning as well as their own safety, the union that represents Kansas City-area teachers was appalled by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s new quarantine recommendations for elementary and secondary schools.
"It is reckless, particularly at this at this time," Andrea Flinders, president of the Kansas City Federation of Teachers and School-Related Personnel, told 41 Action News.
Under the new recommendations, people won't be classified as a close contact of a COVID-19 positive person if face masks have been worn properly, but Flinders believes such a recommendation — unsupported by current Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidance — puts her union's members in jeopardy.
"Because if you know that a child has COVID in your classroom, there's a lot more mitigating factors other than the mask," Flinders said. "You have lunch, where you're not wearing a mask."
Kansas City, Missouri, health and school officials also rejected Parson's recommendations along with city leaders. The Jackson County Health Department also issued a statement Thursday in opposition to Parson's recommendation.
"We understand that this is a year of some change of some challenge for young people in terms of the educational environment, but I'm not going to start to substitute my own judgment of who should be back in the classroom versus not for that of medical experts, of scientists and people who we pay a lot of money to think about these things," KCMO Mayor Quinton Lucas said.
Kansas City Public School remains in a virtual learning environment except for roughly 200 special education students.
Other Missouri districts aren't rushing to modify their current procedures either.
The Kearney School District said it will continue to follow the advice given by the Clay County Public Health Center.
As a school district and a community, we all want our children to be in school safely. The coronavirus pandemic has challenged all school districts to adjust to ensure we can continue in-person learning to the greatest extent possible.
KSD has a responsibility to follow the guidance and recommendations from our local health officials. The new guidance from the Governor contradicts local Clay County Public Health Center and federal Centers for Disease Control guidance.
In the coming days, district administrators will continue to monitor how the Governor’s message impacts guidance from our local public health experts. At this time, we will continue our current procedures for contact tracing, and all those currently in quarantine will continue that process as originally determined.
Representatives with the Blue Springs and Lee's Summit R-7 school districts said they're gathering more information and do not plan any changes at this time. But Jackson County, relying on CDC guidance and with a high rate of community spread, won't be adopting Parson's lax quarantine standard.
The Jackson County Health Department strongly agrees that vigilant and comprehensive mask wearing will reduce the risk of transmission. However, recent guidance issues by the state of Missouri does not currently align with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In addition, the Kansas City region is experiencing uncontrolled community transmission — with serious implications to the regional health system and ability of local public health practitioners to effectively trace and investigate cases.
With these facts in mind, the Jackson County Health Department will maintain current quarantine and isolation practices. As always, we will constantly evaluate these practices as new data and scientific consensus is released.
Flinders said local teachers would prefer to have all students in class like normal, but the health and safety of everyone involved with public schools needs to be the priority amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I don’t think I have a single member at all that doesn’t want in-person with our students, but they also want our students safe and they have to be safe too," she said.