Communities, Schools Wrestle with COVID-19

October 06, 2020

By James McNary

Articles Editor

The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak once again pushed its way to the front of national attention with confirmation that President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the illness, as well as many others with ties to the White House staff. This was just days after it was confirmed that Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and wife, Teresa, had tested also tested positive for the Coronvirus-caused infection.

As of Oct. 4, Dade County has 26 active cases of COVID-19, with 92 confirmed positive test results of county residents since the Coronavirus outbreak began earlier this year.

Even accounting for its smaller population, Dade County has so far managed to avoid an outbreak of the magnitude experienced by neighboring counties, including Lawrence, with has had 762 confirmed cases and six confirmed fatalities so far (including a few residents of Missouri Veterans Home in Mt. Vernon), with 160 cases currently active.

With an uptick in the number of cases, many businesses remain closed or with restricted operations, such as closed lobbies or reduced seating.

Area schools, which only resumed in-person classes in late August, have also had to adjust when positive cases have been reported among students or staff. Cases have been confirmed among students or staff in districts including Greenfield R-IV, Lockwood R-I and Miller R-II.

“Our district has seen 8 positive cases so far, and as of this [writing], we have 2 active cases among students and 2 active cases among faculty/staff,” said Greenfield R-IV Supt. Chris Kell.

Upon confirmation of a positive case in the district, Greenfield moved to the “yellow” level of its re-entry plan, requiring students to be masked on buses, students in grades 7-12 to be masked when in close quarters or in class transitions, and temperature checks for students, faculty and staff prior to entering school buildings. Concerns about the virus have led to the cancellation of two varsity football games, a rescheduling of homecoming events to Oct. 9, and some shuffling of the high school volleyball schedule.

“Our students and faculty seem to be adapting to the changes thrown at them very well.    We have hired a nurse assistant to serve alongside the district’s nurse for the 2020-2021 school year and will be making a decision on the hiring of an additional custodian shortly,” added Kell. 

The Lockwood R-I School District has had at least one teacher test positive for COVID-19, with an additional two teachers quarantined as well as the high school principal. Supt. Clay Lasater said during the Sept. 23 meeting of the district board of education that the plan was to keep the elementary school open, using substitute teachers and video instruction provided by the teachers in quarantine. If additional positive cases are confirmed, the district would re-evaluate moving up to the next level of its re-entry plan at that time.

In Miller, the R-II district has had at least one student and one teacher test positive for COVID-19. The district has been working closely with the Lawrence County Health Department to ensure safety measures were in place to contain any further spread. The nearby Round Grove Christian Academy called off classes for Monday, Oct. 5, pending test results of a potential exposure to an individual connected with that institution.

Golden City R-III has had one positive case requiring three other students be quarantined.

“We put some very strict and exact safety guidelines in place throughout the day and we are very pleased with how the year has progressed so far,” said Golden City R-III Supt. Keith Rook. “The students want to be in school as bad as we do, and so they seem to be reacting very well and very positively to the structure and guidelines because they understand why we are doing it.”

Other area schools, including Dadeville R-II, Everton R-III, Immanuel Lutheran School, and Ash Grove R-IV, have so far managed to avoid any positive cases.

“We have implemented some new screening procedures and a few new policies to keep our faculty, students and families safe,” said ILS Principal Jamie Eggerman. “They seem to be flowing smoothly and everyone is very cooperative.”

“We’re in the same boat as everyone else,” said Everton R-III Supt. Mike Wallace. “We haven’t had any positive cases, though we have had a few individuals quarantine due to potential exposure.”

“At this point we do not have any positive cases, but of course that could change at any time,” said Dadeville R-II Supt. Matt Bushey. “Like any school, the challenge is how to limit contacts in case someone tests positive.”