Denise Peters

Denise Peters, St. Joseph regional president for the Missouri State Teachers Association, is optimistic for the reopening of schools but indicates key areas of concern yet remaining for education leaders to address.

Ahead of a deadline to enroll in the St. Joseph School District Virtual Academy, one of the largest representative groups of educators in the state is ready to proceed with school reopenings.

Denise Peters, St. Joseph regional president of the Missouri State Teachers Association, said she believes her peer educators have what they need to proceed, and can adapt as time goes on with the fall semester. Much will remain unknown about what their duties will look like until the Friday, July 31, deadline comes and goes and the school district has semi-permanent numbers about which students will be studying online and how many will be within district buildings. Classes start Monday, Aug. 24.

“I think teachers are naturally really innovative and we work well together during this process,” she said. “And we have worked together to develop solutions to problems we didn’t expect. I think from the spring, til now, we’ve learned a lot.”

Some areas of concern remain. In an interview on Sunday morning on the CNN program State of the Union with Jake Tapper, Adm. Brett Giroir of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps stated that for about 50% of all COVID-19 tests conducted nationwide, the time for results to arrive averages out to a little more than four days, or 96 hours.

“We are trying to bring that down,” said Giroir, who oversees national policymaking of multiple COVID-19 matters, including testing, within the administration of President Donald Trump. “I’m never going to be happy until we have this under control.”

Aligning with the realities presented nationwide is a challenge on the local level. The St. Joseph Schools reopening plan envisions an initial stay-at-home period of 72 hours for any student who exhibits fever or other symptoms that are considered COVID-19 telltales.

If diagnosis ensues, the student must stay home for at least 14 days, and that term will be extended until they are symptom-free. Late June research published via the National Institutes of Health found “children may be less frequently infected” and possibly do not infect others with the same frequency or in the same manner as adults.

Peters joined with recent statements by Dr. Doug Van Zyl, superintendent of schools, in concluding that the wisest course for educators to follow is to continue to follow advice from national policymakers, public health and scientific authorities, as implemented by Buchanan County and other local health departments. The best thing higher authorities can do in turn, Peters said, is provide additional funding for personal protective equipment and reduce the testing turnaround time.

“It would be a lot more sustainable to go back to school if we know if somebody’s positive within a day,” Peters said. “Rather than if it’s a week or more.”

Marcus Clem can be reached at marcus.clem@npgco.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowClem