CPS board votes to return all student age groups to online learning until January

The Columbia Public Schools Board of Education voted Monday night to have students of all ages learn online-only.

The move means middle school and high school students will stay online-only until Jan. 19. Elementary students will go back to virtual learning on Nov. 16, and stay there until Jan. 11.

The board pointed to rising coronavirus case numbers in Boone County as a reason for the move. The district’s 14-day COVID-19 tracker is at 84.2 as of Monday, one of the highest numbers during the pandemic. The district said 72 staffers and 401 students are out for COVID-19 reasons. Superintendent Peter Stiepleman says, out of the district’s roughly 500 substitutes, 226 are eligible to work and only 86 are willing to work.

“This is truly difficult, but to me the writing’s kind of on the wall as far as a safety concern,” board member Chris Horn said.

Elementary students returned to in-person learning on Oct. 19. Seven of those buildings have since switched back to virtual learning because of illness. Older students have learned online-only since March.

CPS board member Blake Willoughby says COVID-19 is hurting learning like a natural disaster hitting a district building.

“With the trend we are seeing happening right now, and what sounds like this is going to be continuing, the opportunity to safely conduct in-person potentially is gone at this time.”

(This story was last updated at 5:57 a.m. Tuesday.)

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