This week’s Missouri Board of Education meeting was frustrating, not for what they talked about or decided, but for what they did not talk about.
After a lengthy meeting on Tuesday, Board President Charlie Shields made an “executive decision” to table two items until they meet again in mid-August.
What were the items?
DESE’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the creation of a task force to combat learning loss as a result of the pandemic.
These two items should have been at the forefront of the meeting, not pushed off for two months when many schools will have already started their fall semesters.
DESE has removed links to any of the materials that had been planned to be presented on the topics this week, but if you are interested in the task force you can find some information in a news article in the Fulton Sun.
DESE staff did talk about how COVID-19 could financially impact schools in the fall, however, and Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven painted a grim picture of what could be the new normal for schools.
“We will be asking parents to keep their children home if they are ill,” she said. “We will be asking parents to keep their children home for symptoms that they may not have ever kept them home for in the past.
“We expect to see a significant decline in attendance,” she continued. “What if you have to quarantine an entire class, or a bus, for 14 days?”
Vandeven said that thinking about the health of students should come first, followed by ensuring ways to keep kids learning at home if they have to be at home, followed by concerns to ensure funding mechanisms for schools if students are not actually in the schools.
Given those priorities, isn’t it ironic that the board had time to talk about the financial impact (which in all fairness is real and a real problem) on schools but not on the actual efforts to keep schools safe in the fall or the task force focused on helping students who fell behind this spring catch up when they return to school in the fall?
Sometimes actions speak louder than words.