The Joplin Schools Board of Education (BOE) met in a work session to discuss data and the possibility of returning to regular school days. Various individuals from the Joplin Schools presented informational data to the session.
Dan Pekarek from the Joplin Health Department spoke on the current COVID-19 numbers in Joplin and how they had been affected recently. Pekarek reported that there are 208 active cases that are in isolation, 868 that are inactive who have completed isolation, and there have been a total of 23 deaths in Joplin. After presenting a graph that showed the tracking of Joplin COVID-19 numbers, Pekarek said that the numbers “bottomed out” around August 14 and since has increased, as he also said, “we are kind of in a second peak.” He also reported that there are 11 total hospitalized in Joplin with a cumulative amount of 75. Additionally, Pekarek reported that Joplin has seen a 32.94 percent increase in new cases per 100,000 population during the past seven days, compared with the previous seven days.
Steve Gillbreth from Joplin High School (JHS) presented on JHS hybrid instructional data, speaking mainly on their A/B school day schedule. Gillbreth discussed results from a teacher survey conducted, where 79 teachers responded, that asked various questions on how teachers are handling their school days compared to the regular school year. The survey provided data that allowed the BOE to further discuss potentially returning to regular school days. Gillbreth reported that JHS has five positive COVID-19 cases with two quarantined; additionally, they have 407 students who are enrolled fully virtually out of a total of 1770 total JHS students.
Gillbreth also presented an idea to implement for students who have failing grades. He explained that any student who holds an F in their gradebook—which is about 32 percent currently—after the first three weeks of school would then attend after-school, as they would turn to “tutoring and academic recovery” because JHS is “tolerating no failing grades.” Teachers from JHS then had the opportunity to approach the board and speak on behalf of their perspectives, which a science teacher chose to do.
Superintendent Melinda Moss also presented on District and Joplin High School data. Moss reported that there are 12 total isolated employees, but zero at JHS; 127 total quarantined students, but 22 at JHS; 19 currently positive/isolated, but 11 at JHS. Moss stated that “relaxing restrictions at this point gives me great concern.” She continued that the majority of the positive and quarantine cases are due to household or community transfer that then are taken to school and cause school transfer. Moss also discussed her stance on the A/B schedule, stating that she feels positive about it and that quality of teaching may be better.
Moss concluded the meeting with discussion of the previously placed opening recommendation for the Joplin Schools by posing two questions: “Do we go to in-person learning and lessen restrictions?” Or, “Are our numbers low because the hybrid schedule is working and we need to let it play out a little longer?” Moss commented that the hybrid schedule “appears to me is helping.” With this in mind, she suggested a new recommendation take its place.