Joplin Schools discuss attendance, getting back to class on first day

JOPLIN, Mo. – It’s Monday and while it’s the first day of the work-week, it’s also the first day of school in nearly five months for several local districts including Joplin. We spoke with district officials on the attendance numbers and getting back to class.

When the school bell last rang and kids left, they didn’t know when they’d return. Now, they’re back, approximately 5,000 of the district’s 7,800 physically in class Monday. Assistant Superintendent of Learning Services Sarah Mwangi says “We have had a few kids who maybe got sick during the day that we had to send home, those common things that happen in schools.”

That number doesn’t include the “B” day students at the high school, whose first day is Tuesday. It also doesn’t include those signed up for virtual only learning. Mwangi says “A student may have signed up on the virtual but they not be officially enrolled in their home school yet, so we’ve got to get that paperwork taken care of.”

Dr. Stephen Gilbreth is the high school principal and says day one has gone smoothly. “I wasn’t surprised since Joplin High School is truly the greatest high school in the universe, I expected nothing less from our kids and they completely delivered and did an incredible job.”

Elementary and middle schools are having lunch in the classroom, but the high school is using the cafeteria. “So we’ve moved around tables and put down tape where you know, socially distanced all of the tables and how the tables are arranged and limited the seating to some of the bigger tables and so, yea, it’s all been in the cafeteria and gone quite smoothly.”

Dr. Gilbreth says he loves the kids he looks after. “I’m super excited to have them back and to begin that process of making a difference in their lives.”

Officials say they did wellness checks at the entrances of all campuses and are happy to say, they didn’t have to turn anyone away.