Local districts reflect on lessons learned in the current school year and look toward the future

JOPLIN/NEOSHO, Mo. – School is out, or almost out, for most districts in our area. We spoke with two district officials as they review the past year and look toward the school year ahead.

The 2020/2021 school year presented a number of unique challenges for districts in our area when it came to planning how students would get back to class. Joplin Schools Superintendent Dr. Melinda Moss says “I remember saying at the beginning of the year when we were planning so specifically our COVID reentry plans, and all the safety protocols and how our buildings would look, we said, ‘if this goes well, at the end of the year we’re going to think that we overreacted, and if it goes poorly, then we’re going to think that we under reacted.”

Beyond deep cleaning practices and sanitizing between classes, substitutes were another consideration. “Any extra substitutes that we had were really offset by the fact that our teachers were not traveling to professional development opportunities and out of the classrooms for meetings and other things that we normally would in a school year.”

In Neosho, Superintendent Dr. Jim Cummins says they planned ahead in their budget. “We budgeted 13% increase in our subs for the year because we kinda knew that there would be, not only the COVID quarantines, but the expectation that if you had a sniffle or whatever, stay home, and we’re at about 8% over prior year.”

When it comes to getting kids back to class this fall, both districts are hoping for something closer to normal. Dr. Cummins says “It’ll be a lot of return to normalcy, I think we’ve learned some things about social distancing, about flu season, some things that will certainly help us sanitation wise, and, there will be some things that we do differently than we have in the past, but in a lot of regards it will be normal.”
Dr. Moss says “Well, we’re very hopeful what students and parents can expect is a real return to our traditions and more normal open for business type activity.”

Neosho’s mask mandate ends tomorrow.