NEOSHO, Mo. — Neosho students were back in school today, their first day back in-person in a week. Meanwhile, school leaders are tweaking the COVID Return-to-School policy.

The superintendent says conditions are much better than this time last week.
But he also points out that COVID isn’t the only factor to blame.

“123 staff members out and especially with bus drivers and cooks, it became really challenging,” said Dr. Jim Cummins, Neosho R-5 Superintendent.

It wasn’t just cases of COVID-19, but a few different reasons.

The number of absences, though, was critical in cancelling class last Wednesday. Dr. Cummins points out that while classroom instruction is crucial, it’s also a big issue if the district can’t handle responsibilities like lunch and getting kids to and from class.

“Not being fed, you know, not missing bus pickups, and kids are standing out in the cold. And so those are the challenges that we faced last week.”

The numbers improved this week, smoothing the back-to-classroom instruction. Meanwhile, school leaders updated the Return-to-School plan during a Board of Education meeting.

“One thing that we did, based upon that feedback, is we added back in we had taken off some of the extra cleaning protocols and some of those things that we really stepped up during the start of COVID. And there were comments about we’d like to get back to normal, but it would be wise to keep the cleaning protocols in place.”

The Return-to-School plan reflects that, along with the continuation of the Mask-Optional Policy. And they’re relaxing the rules regarding non-essential visitors on campus.

“We’re going to start letting some volunteers back into the building, doing some of the things that we did pre-COVID and I think it fits our community’s desire. I think it demonstrates what we’ve seen is that people are going to get sick some, but we’ve not had a mass outbreak amongst our students,” said Dr. Cummins.

As far as any future issues, the plan focuses on a seven percent absence rate for triggering level protections, including requiring masks.

Level three is tied to a 10% student absence rate, that would close a school building.