COLUMBIA — The Columbia Missouri National Education Association sent out a letter asking Columbia Public Schools to require all individuals in district buildings to wear a mask.

The teachers' association said it brought back its COVID Advisory Committee to make recommendations for the 2021-22 school year based on lessons from last year.

The school district said it would take the letter under advisement, but it is considering multiple sources to make a plan for fall.

"The district continues to monitor COVID in our community and will utilize multiple resources and recommendations, including medical and health experts, when determining its plan for the start of the 2021-22 school year," said Michelle Baumstark, district spokeswoman. "The district will have more information for families before the school year begins in August."

On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended in-person learning and universal masking in school of everyone over the age of 2 regardless of vaccination status.

Noelle Gilzow, president of CMNEA, emphasized the importance of protecting unvaccinated people.

"It's safest for people to be masked in schools, mainly to protect the ones who are unvaccinated and that would be elementary students," she said. "Our recommendations state that everyone who has the opportunity to get them has and allows enough time for both shots and the waiting period to be in effect."

Vaccination rates in the district have not reached 70% as the delta variant continues to spread.

The CMNEA COVID-19 committee recommends masks for safe in-seat instruction. Students should be required to wear masks until children under 12 have received their doses and passed the waiting period. Unvaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks even after students 12 years or younger have been vaccinated.

Other recommendations from the committee include:

  • Enforce social distancing in the classroom and seating charts for contract tracing.
  • Adjust school lunch shifts to avoid as much contact as possible. After-school activities that are held in-person must follow COVID protocol. 
  • Communicate and be transparent regarding positive cases among students and staff.
  • Hold families accountable for following protocols regarding symptoms.
  • Provide school-based testing sites for students and staff. 

The CMNEA COVID Advisory committee hopes "the District, educators, and families will thoughtfully consider our recommendations as we work together to keep everyone in our community safe and continue to provide our scholars with an outstanding education."

KOMU 8 Digital Producer & Reporter

KOMU 8 Digital Producer & Reporter. I'm a current senior at the University of Missouri, studying Convergence Journalism - Emerging Media. Reach me at awf3cq@umsystem.edu, or on Twitter @byalexfulton.

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