The continuing impact of COVID-19 on students and personnel was the primary focus of the Lincoln County R-III School Board members meeting on Nov. 6.

A majority of the discussion surrounded the current procedures of the current contact tracing affecting the district. On Nov. 12, Gov. Mike Parson announced that Missouri students would be able to avoid quarantine and remain in class after being in close contact with a known positive COVID-19 case, as long as proper masking procedures were in place. 

Although Parson allowed these new guidelines, the Lincoln County Health Department put out a statement that, although it agreed that masking is an important tool, “weakening our quarantine guidelines in schools could reduce the effectiveness of one of our best mitigation strategies to reduce the spread of COVID 19 in our community.”

“Ultimately, the numbers are what tell the story,” Board Member Dale McDonald said. 

“We have to look at the numbers and evaluate what is the best option for those inside the school,” Lincoln County R-III Superintendent Dr. Mark Penny said. 

Statistics presented at the meeting confirmed 29 of the students that have been traced have tested positive for COVID-19, however, this did not reflect data of asymptomatic cases. Discussion continued about the priority of the safety of the staff, as information was presented that the county could only attribute two students to teacher transmissions of the virus.  

Members expressed concern that although the numbers for student to staff transmission are low, it could rise if the contact tracing stops. Over 700 students have been contact traced in the high school resulting from 70 students who have tested positive. 

The board discussed options on how to move forward with the rest of the year. The meeting resulted in the board agreeing to pursue the collection of more information via a survey to parents and staff from the district. 

Once the information is collected the board plans to call a special meeting to make a final decision. Regarding the future decision on contact tracing Dr. Dave Easterday said, “If they (staff and parents) don’t understand the decision, at least they see the agony we had in making it.”