De Soto School District tweaks COVID policy | Local News | #coronavirus | #kids. | #children | #schools


De Soto School District students and staff will be under modified COVID-19 mitigation rules when the second semester begins in mid-January, but most won’t notice the difference.

The district’s Board of Education voted 6-0 Dec. 16 to modify its Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan, which spells out how the district is responding to the ongoing pandemic.

Tweaks were necessary, Superintendent Josh Isaacson said, as a result of a recent decision by Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel R. Green that only elected officials have the authority to enact health mandates, such as wearing masks and quarantining.

Isaacson also noted that Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who has been zealous in opposing such mandates, has advised “concerned parents” to report school districts that enforce such policies to his office. Schmitt has announced his plans to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

In making his presentation to the board for a modified policy, Isaacson noted several provisions under state law that allow school boards to “make all needful rules and regulations” for the governance of the district, including not allowing students and staff who have communicable diseases of any sort to attend school.

“What will change (under the modified policy) is that we can no longer quarantine individuals,” Isaacson said. “We had been requesting individuals who test positive or are in close contact with individuals who test positive to quarantine per the guidelines from the Jefferson County Health Department. This is essentially what all the other schools in the county have been doing.”

Isaacson said under the Cole County ruling, the understanding is that school districts cannot order the quarantining of individuals, but can “exclude” them from attending classes or reporting to work.

The exclusion, he said, is unlike a quarantine because it affects only what happens at school; a quarantine is meant to be around-the-clock.

De Soto’s standing policy on communicable diseases call for students or staff who test positive to be “excluded” for at least 10 days.

Isaacson said the district’s head nurse will decide on a case-by-case basis which students and staff members should be “excluded” from the district’s buildings.

He said the practice of figuring out individuals in “close quarters” with those identified as positive cases will likely be a moving target throughout the semester.

“Will it be family members of a student who tests positive?” Isaacson said. “Most likely, but those cases will be decided by the head nurse. We’ll see as it goes along.”

Under the modified policy, district officials will no longer conduct contact tracing – informing people who may have come into contact with a student or staff member who tests positive.

Isaacson noted that under federal mandate, face masks will continue to be required on school buses. He also said students and staff will still be encouraged to wear masks, practice social distancing and get vaccinated when possible. In addition, the district will continue its enhanced cleaning protocols, including weekly fogging of buildings.

Staff members report to work for the second semester on Jan. 18; students return to class the next day

Bus mechanic job changes

Also at the Dec. 16 meeting, the De Soto Board of Education voted 6-0 to approve modifications to its contract with the De Soto Transportation Association, the bargaining unit for the district’s school bus drivers and mechanics.

The district will change the job description and pay for those who work on the district’s buses. Formerly referred to as mechanics, those workers will now be labeled as “school bus technicians.”

Isaacson said the change more accurately reflects what the job entails.

“We needed to make the name consistent with the job,” he said. “When people hear ‘mechanic,’ they think of someone who’s going to be working on an engine. Our employees do things like change the oil and take care of other routine maintenance issues.”

Isaacson conceded that the old job title most likely has made it difficult to fill a long-standing vacancy for one of the two positions.

The pay scale for the school bus technicians also has been adjusted. The starting pay for a mechanic was $15.57 per hour; that will be boosted to $18 per hour, effective with the new year.

Increases are given for experience.

“The pay also may have played a factor in the trouble in filling the job,” Isaacson said.



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