COLUMBIA - The Columbia Public School Board of Education unanimously approved an extension of its 2021-22 Coronavirus Plan Monday night.

The plan outlines how the district, staff and students should respond to various COVID-19 situations. The board announced the plan August 13, and the plan went into affect August 16.

The vote allows the 34-page document to continue to guide the district and give it certain powers related to COVID-19.

The plan does not include a mask mandate, however it does give the district superintendent the power to make a mask mandate. Columbia Public Schools has a mask mandate in effect, which the board said they will review on Sept. 15.

Superintendent Brian Yearwood said he wants to emphasize keeping students safe while learning in-person.

"We want our scholars coming home the same way they were sent to school, happy and safe," Yearwood said.

President of the Columbia Missouri National Education Association Noelle Gilzow said the organization encourages masking in CPS buildings and buses.

"We strongly support mitigation members which protect our most medically vulnerable populations, including students under the age of 12 who have not yet had the opportunity to become vaccinated," Gilzow said. "We encourage the continued use of masking in CPS buildings and buses for everyone."

CPS Board of Education member Della Streaty-Wilhoit said she wants people to remember the students and the emotions involved in COVID-19 discussions.

"Lets always work to try to support ourselves and our scholars," Streaty-Wilhoit said. "This is feelings, this is emotions, this is tears. And it may be tears to the right or to the left, it does not matter."

The board heard public comments about the COVID-19 plan from CPS community members. 

"I want to thank you all for the mask mandate," said former CPS parent and current CPS grandparent Erica Epert. "I did have one grandson that did get Covid his second week of Summer School here."

The board also approved a change to the school year schedule. The last day of school will now be May 26, regardless of how many days are taken off due to severe weather. The board said the change will allow summer school to begin earlier and finish before the end of June.

The change to the school year schedule also included making Juneteenth a holiday.

"I just want to express my excitement that we are now celebrating Juneteenth in this district," board member David Seamon said. "I'd say as a Black man from the south, in a state where we just took down the confederate flag about 2 years ago after nine people were killed in a church, and as a CPS graduate, that is something that thrills me."

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