CPS parents weigh risks, options of school year

Posted on 5 July 2020 at 2:00pm

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Public School District released plans for reopening in the fall and said on June 22 that it will be encouraging students to wear masks.

 "The district will expect students to wear masks, and we respect and understand that there will be exemptions as not all students will be able to wear a mask," the district said in a release.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics "strongly advocates" that policy considerations for the coming school year should start with having students physically present in school.  

"It is important to identify issues with social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation," the AAP said in a statement. 

Dr. Blake Barnes, with Tiger Pediatrics, said that children with existing health problems are at higher risk of catching the disease. 

"The kids that are most at risk are the ones with a pre-existing health condition, that are already prone," he said. 

Some parents, like local mother, Mandy Walters, have concerns about sending their children back to school.

Walters has a son, 11, with asthma, who will be returning to Lange Middle School in the fall. 

"I trust that the school district and teachers will be practicing social distancing, reminding them to keep your mask on and to wash your hands," Walters said. "He knows that stuff. It is a little bit frightening, but at the same time, we have to do what's the best for emotionally and physically. Overall I think this is the best option for him."

Her son, Colton Williamson, said that he agrees. 

"I use my inhaler around two times a day but still want to go back to school. I miss my friends, will wear my mask, and it's easier for me," he said. 

CPS extended the deadline for selecting in-person or online instruction for the fall to July — and allowed families to change their minds. 

"Families can resubmit their enrollment questionnaire and the system will retain the latest response submitted," said CPS communications spokeswomen, Michelle Baumstark. 

The district will continue to post and update information on its website