More schools across the Ozarks facing rising COVID-19 cases and exposures

Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 9:47 PM CST
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STOCKTON, Mo. (KY3) - More schools across parts of the Ozarks, including many rural areas, are facing rising COVID-19 cases and exposures.

The increase in cases and exposures has been taking a toll on many districts as the number of absences increase.

Cases in Stockton have picked up. The Stockton R-1 School District said it is constantly monitoring caseloads and exposures throughout every day.

“We’re keeping track of the numbers daily in the morning,” said Stockton R-1 School District Superintendent Dr. Doug Crawford. “We get up and we check numbers. Midday we check numbers. Before we go home we check numbers to see how we are in percentages and such.”

The school board also decided to adopt the CDC’s isolation and quarantine guidance, which reduces that time period to five days.

The school district’s attendance dropped to 82% on Wednesday. The district said teachers are also out with COVID. Around 48 students were also out for exposures.

”What’s challenging this year is it seems like it’s not just COVID that we’re dealing with,” Crawford said. “We’re having positive flu cases, positive strep cases, the common cold as well going around. So it seems like it’s hard to kind of differentiate between whether we’re looking at COVID or just your typical sicknesses that happen this time of year.”

Crawford said attendance is unusually low right now, but he said the district may need to adapt if it drops below 80-percent.

“Once those numbers get close to that, then as a district we have to decide, do we need to take some time and let everybody get better,” he said. “Or is this worth keeping kids in school, because we want to keep kids in school. That’s the most important thing for us, but we also want to be conscientious of the environment and health concerns that are going around in regards, not just to students, but staff as well.”

Crawford said the district aims to keep students in the classroom, but he said virtual alternatives are a very real option.

”Our teachers are ready,” he said. “We have been able to make a lot of progress in a very short amount of time in regards to preparing virtual lessons and providing hotspots for students who don’t have internet access, which is a concern in our area.”

Supply of rapid tests has also been a concern for many districts lately. Something Stockton R-1 School District is also keeping an eye on.

”I feel like we could probably get through this surge,” Crawford said, referring to the district’s current supply of rapid tests. “If it continues this way through the spring, I would be very concerned.”

The district is also applying for saliva tests from the state as well.

Crawford said there is also a large need for substitutes right now. He said he recently posted a video on social media about the need for substitutes. Crawford said some parents have already reached out to help.

“I’ve had six people contact us willing to help out and go through the certification,” he said. “So that’s huge for a district like ours, but we are struggling to fill those spots. You know, we’re pulling teachers from different positions to just try to do what we can.”

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