Neosho Schools discuss start of school protocols, accept resignation from board member

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

The Neosho Board of Education met on Jul. 19, with the one discussion item, the start of school protocols.

With the first day of school being Aug. 24, the discussion regarding the start of school protocols, as it related to COVID19, had five main topics that were the decision timeline, the input process, staff impact, instructional impact and vaccines.

On Jul. 21, Superintendent Dr. Jim Cummins told the Neosho Daily News that the plan was to do their best to have a plan ready for the board’s Aug. 9 work session.

Then, that plan would be released the week of Aug. 9 to open up the opportunity for parents to make their decision on in person vs. virtual learning so the district can solidify those numbers.

“I imagine by Aug. 10 we would post those,” said Cummins. “And have those available, that way if parents want to shift from seated to virtual or virtual to seated, they would have some time to do that and we would have a little bit of time to adjust staffing.”

When discussing the input process, one of the things the board mentioned was encouraging the public to share feedback by emailing board members and administrators what their thoughts were and what they would like to see.

Cummins said he surmised that the district would put out another survey at the beginning of next week to solicit feedback on various items. He said he didn’t anticipate any additional public forums but that they are looking at different ways to get feedback.

The staff and instructional impact were nuanced discussions with Cummins telling the Neosho Daily News that one of the things they’re wrestling with is the differences in recommendations and guidelines.

“The Center for Disease Control (CDC), the state is supposed to release their recommendations by the end of this week, I had a conference call with the governor’s office and governor on Monday,” said Cummins on Jul. 21. “They suggested that they would have their guidelines or recommendations but the end of the week. Today, I met with 40 plus superintendents from southwest Missouri on a Zoom meeting talking about timeline and different things as far as when we’re going to make announcements and having things in place.”

“One of the big questions or conversations that keeps coming about is how are we going to handle vaccinated vs unvaccinated students and staff members,” added Cummins. “The guidance, at least CDC guidance and I suspect the state and local guidance, will mirror it to some extent, is that there is different treatment for those two different categories of people.”

Cummins pointed out that the challenge will be, especially on the student side, is there a social/emotional piece to being vaccinated or unvaccinated.

 “Is there some stereotyping?” said Cummins. “We know how kids are. We’re going to have to wade through that. when you get to the staff side you also have to start thinking about, ‘ok if a staff member is close contact, the guidance is if you’re vaccinated you don’t have to quarantine,’ Well if you’re unvaccinated you’re supposed to quarantine. That gets into leave issues and how were going to handle leave. Those are ongoing discussions that were going to have to come up with a plan for.”

With their current plan, Cummins said the district was anticipating starting the year fairly normal. Masks would be optional, although some public participation at the board meeting had community members wanting to remove the mask mandate entirely, distancing would be done as best as possible and cleaning protocols would continue.

Instructionally wise, the district has a number of those interested in virtual instruction that likely would’ve resulted in hybrid instruction with some students seated in class and some virtually learning.

Cummins said if the district changes their protocols or people are getting more uneasy about sending their children back for in person learning, then they could go fully virtual.

“In that case we may have to rethink and make those teachers virtual only like last year which would mean we then have to redistribute those seated students that would’ve been in that class,” said Cummins. “Those are the instructional and staffing decisions we’ll have to make after we give parents another round of opportunity to make sure they have their student placed where they would like them.”

The vaccine discussion came back to the differentiating opinions not only in Neosho but across the world when it comes to getting the vaccine or not.

Another item that Cummins mentioned was the multiple entities, local health departments, the governor’s office, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the CDC among them, encouraging schools to promote getting the vaccine.

“The Greene County Health Department was on the Zoom call this afternoon,” said Cummins. “They said they’re seeing 7.5% of positive cases are people that are fully vaccinated. It’s not that they’re not getting it at all but what they’re finding out is that they’re not the ones going to the hospital, they’re not the ones having serious cases.”

“The push is twofold, one for people to get vaccinated aren’t going to the hospital and stressing the healthcare system but also the vaccination rate percentage rising gets us closer and closer to herd immunity. They’re really pushing the vaccination; they’re wanting schools to help in that regard. It puts us in a challenging situation. We have people in the community that are adamant everyone should get the vaccine and we have people in the community adamant that folks shouldn’t get the vaccine. We’re stuck in the middle trying to make sure we have a safe school year and trying to figure out a way, in essence, to replicate last year. We never had a major shutdown, we never had a major outbreak, we had a somewhat normal school year. That’s really our goal.”

Melissa Wright resigns from school board

At the Jul. 19 Board of Education meeting, the board accepted the resignation of board member Melissa Wright, who is moving out of the Neosho School District.

The announcement sent out to district members: A seat has opened for the NSD Board of Education. This will be a temporary seat that will go back on the ballot for the election in April 2022. If you are interested in filling the seat, please submit a letter of interest to the NSD Board of Education by Tuesday, August 3, 2021. The board will review the letters and make their selection for the seat with intentions to bring on the new board member in August.

For questions or to submit a letter of interest, please contact board secretary Tonya Patterson at Letters can also be dropped off in person at the NSD Administrative Center, 418 Fairground Road, Neosho, MO 64850.

The Board requires all individuals who wish to be appointed to the Board to meet the eligibility requirements for School Board candidates under Missouri law.  Therefore, to be eligible for appointment to the Board you must:

  •     Be a citizen of the United States of America.  Mo. Const. art. VII, ' 8; ' 162.291, RSMo.
  •     Be a resident taxpayer of the district.  ' 162.291, RSMo.
  •     Have resided in Missouri for a minimum of one year immediately preceding your appointment, if selected.  Mo. Const. art. VII, ' 8; ' 162.291, RSMo.
  •     Be at least 24 years of age.  ' 162.291, RSMo.
  •     Not be delinquent in the payment of any state income taxes, personal property taxes, municipal taxes or real property taxes on your place of residence as listed on this form.  If an applicant is a past or present corporate officer of any fee office, that office cannot be delinquent in the payment of any taxes owed the state.  ' 115.306, RSMo.
  •     Not have been found guilty of nor pled guilty to a felony under the federal laws of the United States of America or to a felony under Missouri law or an offense committed in another state that would be considered a felony in Missouri.  ' 115.306, RSMo.
  •     Not be registered or required to be registered as a sex offender under ' 162.014, RSMo.
  •     Have filed, or the treasurer of any existing candidate committee has filed, all required campaign disclosure reports with the Missouri Ethics Commission, when applicable, for all previous elections in which you were a candidate.  ' 130.071, RSMo.