West Nodaway School Building

The West Nodaway R-I Board of Education approved a mask mandate for all ages after Gov. Mike Parson released new state guidelines to help with quarantines.

BURLINGTON JCT., Mo. — The West Nodaway R-I school board last week agreed to shut down a morning and after-school program for elementary students, citing low attendance, difficulty staffing it and the cost of the program.

At the Nov. 11 school board meeting, Superintendent Mitch Barnes said that the TEAM program, which provides supervision for elementary students before and after school, was initially funded by a large grant that has since run out. Teachers are paid a $300 per week stipend to supervise the students, mostly after school until parents can pick up their children after work. Although formerly free, the cost of the program to parents is $10 per child per week.

In June, Barnes said, he sent emails to some parents who had not paid their bills, telling them their children could not return to the program until the bills were paid. Several children did not return at all, he said, and paid attendance remains relatively low.

Across a seven-week period from Sept. 14 through the week of Oct. 26, according to numbers provided by Barnes to the school board, the program averaged three to four children per day. That figures out to a net cost of about $850 over that period — around just under $4,000 extrapolated out to a full school year. Additionally, Barnes said he was having trouble finding teachers to staff the program.

Some school board members expressed concern about how some families would cope with the change, but ultimately decided that the program cost too much money and benefitted too few students to continue. No vote was taken.

Barnes sent a letter to parents this week notifying them about the program’s closure. It will continue until the end of this semester.

Mask mandate

Like many school districts across the state and county, the West Nodaway school board met this week after Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced that state officials have changed guidelines for students in K-12 schools who are close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The state guidance will no longer require students or staff to be considered a close contact or to subsequently quarantine as long as they do not show symptoms and all parties involved in the exposure were properly wearing masks.

On Monday, the school board met in a special session and approved a mask mandate for all ages — preschool through 12th grade and all employees. According to a letter from Barnes, the vote was 5-2.

Barnes said that exceptions can be made with a doctor’s note, and that the school will provide masks to anyone who doesn’t have one.

In addition, the board’s new policy also includes a requirement that all attendees to extracurricular activities, like sporting events, must also wear face coverings.

Other West Nodaway notes

  • The school board is planning to consider whether to bring a tax levy increase before voters, and how much such an increase may be. According to numbers reviewed by the school board, West Nodaway’s tax levy is 42 cents lower than the average district’s levy in northwest Missouri.
  • The board accepted a bid from Michael Goff to purchase an obsolete school bus from the district for $1,200.
  • The filing period for two school board seats that will be up for election in April 2021 will run from Dec. 15 to Jan. 9. The seats are currently held by Emma Barnett and Sarah Thompson, both of whom were first elected in 2018 to three-year terms.

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