By MARK EVANS
No members of the public spoke during a public hearing held just prior to the Dec. 21 Ste. Genevieve R-II Board of Education meeting.
The hearing dealt with the district’s reopening plan and its dealing with close contact situations, parental notification and other topics recently touched on by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt.
Dr. Julie Flieg, superintendent of schools, went over the district’s reaction to Schmitt’s letter of Dec. 7. After reviewing the Nov. 22 Cole County Circuit Court ruling in Robinson vs. Missouri Dept. of Health and Senior Services, Schmitt said that it is unconstitutional for the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to allow each county health department to institute its own policy regarding COVID-19 and other health precautions.
Flieg said that after sharing the letter with other administrators, she then discussed it with Jennifer Mueller, executive director of the Ste. Genevieve County Health Department.
“We talked through what the implications of that letter meant for us in our community and took some time and really let the health department decide what they needed to do and what they needed to do in order to comply,” Flieg said.
That led to some tweaks to the district’s quarantine policy.
“As we have said all along, we don’t believe that as public school employees that we have the authority to issue quarantine orders for anyone,” Flieg said. “So, that’s kind of where we’re at. They’re ‘strongly encouraging,’ we’re ‘strongly encouraging.’ We are doing contact tracing when we know there’s a positive case in our buildings, and notifying the parents.”
Flieg also noted that Missouri State Ordinance 167.191, which has been in effect since August 28, 1963, makes it “unlawful” for any child to attend public schools while infected by “any infectious disease or while liable to transmit any such disease after having been exposed to it.” It gives the teacher or school board the power to insist the child see a doctor and states that they can be excluded from school as long as they pose a risk to transmit the disease.
R-II students who test positive for COVID-19 will be provided virtual instruction for the identified period of illness.
“Our nurses have always called parents when kids become sick at school,” Flieg said. “We are continuing to do that. It seems like the last two weeks at school we have a lot – and I do mean a lot – of Influenza A going around.”
She also said that the definition of “close contact” has not changed and that the district continues to “strongly encourage” students and staff to wear some type of face coverings. They are still required on school buses, due to federal mandate, she noted.
David Bova, board president, said he wanted to clarify one point.
“We have not and will not quarantine,” he said. “That’s the health department’s role. We identify close contacts and notify the parents.”