Joplin School board fails to pass return to school plan, special meeting planned for Thursday

JOPLIN, Mo. – The Joplin School district fails to pass their re-entry plan following Tuesday night’s board meeting. However, originally, there wasn’t supposed to be a vote at all.

The original plan for the Tuesday meeting was to hear the in-depth details of the return to school plan, however, board members decided to move it to the regular agenda, making it an item requiring a vote, and that vote failed 3-3, with one board member absent. The issue arose with Joplin High School.

The original plan was for alternating A-B days: with half the kids on campus one day, the other half the next. JHS Principal Dr. Stephen Gilbreth says “Just by virtue of the shear number of kids, you know, 2,300 kids, it becomes a monumental task to socially distance that number of kids.”

Sharrock Dermott is the President of the board, and says he understands both sides. “I respect the decision of those board members who believe our kids are safer in school five days a week, including our high school students.”

However, he voted yes to the original plan, instead of allowing the high school students back five days a week. “And so I recognize that it’s going to be difficult to know the right thing to do, but my position was, I would rather err on the side of being more conservative.”

Board member Jeff Koch voted no, highlighting concerns beyond COVID. “I think our kids need to be in school, not only for the health aspect but the social aspect, we’ve got some kids that maybe this is the only warm meal they have during the week.”

Koch says it should be up to the parents. “The parents have a choice, if they’re not comfortable, they can move to the 100% virtual, and if they want their kids to come to school five days a week, they have that option too, so I say we listen to the parents, we let them tell us what’s best for our community, we listen to that and then we make a decision.”

For the district, it’s out of their hands. Asst. Superintendent of Learning Services Sarah Mwangi says “At the end of the day it is the school board’s decision, of how they would like us to re-enter school.”

The board will be holding a special session meeting tomorrow at 6:30 and we’ll have the results of that meeting Thursday night on KOAM News.