CPS board approves online-only school start

Most students in Columbia Public Schools will start the year online.

The district’s school board voted Monday for an all-virtual model when classes start Sept. 8, after more than three hours of deliberation. The vote was 6-1, with Blake Willoughby the only vote against the move away from a hybrid learning model.

The CPS chart for new COVID-19 cases in Columbia is now way over the threshold to have any in-person classes. Superintendent Peter Stiepleman (STEEPLE-man) says the decision is unprecedented, but so is the public health situation.

“A full return to school is something, definitely, we all want for our children. At this time, we believe it’s impossible based on the data.”

Stiepleman says CPS would have to repeatedly close and re-open over and over because so many people are getting coronavirus. He says more than 50 staffers, most of them teachers, have either tested positive or are in quarantine since Aug. 24.

“19,000 students coming back, even in a hybrid situation, creates a perfect storm in a time where our positivity rate would suggest that it’s not the time to return.”

The CPS board of education next looks at the online-only learning plan during its meeting on Sept. 14. Some students with individualized education plans (IEP) will still learn in-person.

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