Winfield opens schools

Winfield R-IV School Superintendent Daniel Williams, left, talks to Ashley Titus, far right, after the school board voted unanimously to return to in-person instruction on Oct. 15 during a town hall meeting inside the Winfield Middle School gym. Also pictured is Titus’ daughter Sophia, second from left, who is a ninth-grader at Winfield High School, and Mari, a fifth-grader at Winfield Elementary.

For the first time in over seven months, Winfield students will be physically able to attend classes.

During a town hall meeting in front of a packed house at the Winfield Middle School gymnasium on Oct. 15, the Winfield R-IV School District Board of Education unanimously voted to reinstate in-person instruction for the 2020-21 school year with classes beginning on Oct. 19.

Winfield R-IV Superintendent Daniel Williams was pleased with the vote, and said he and his staff are ready to welcome the students back.

“We miss our kids. Our teachers miss our kids,” he said. “I know virtual learning has been hard on everyone, so I’m excited for everyone to be back so we can do what do best.”

Throughout the public comment portion of the meeting, a common message was being delivered by the parents who spoke to the board members: the education of their children was worth the risks of the novel coronavirus, and they had the full faith and trust in the school district to protect their children while they were in classes.

“It was a good crowd – and I was appreciative of that,” Williams said. “We advertised this meeting for weeks, and we got the parents, and they gave us their voices.”

Board of Education member Kevin Kaimann said he is a parent of students in the district, and most of the board members have either children, or grandchildren who attend district schools. The message was well-received by the board members, especially after receiving surveys sent to parents about reopening last month.

“About 82% of parents felt their kids weren’t getting the kind of education they felt their children should be getting (virtually),” Kaimann said. “They felt it was worth the risk (of COVID-19) to get a good education in person.”

“I think our board respects the wishes and opinions of the community, and of course it matters to them,” Williams said. “The board is elected by the community, so (the feedback) certainly played a factor in (reopening the schools).”

One of the parents willing to take on the risks is Ashley Titus. She said it’s about time the district returned to in-person learning, and will be driving her daughters to school, but they will be riding the buses home.

“I’m relieved. I’m over virtual learning. It’s been a struggle,” Titus said. “I’m worried about my child academically failing.

“I’m not worried about the school protecting them, but my children are struggling.”

Board member Kerry Boyd said a return to in-person education is not just better academically, but socially as well, especially for younger students.

“If your child is younger, and can’t drive where they want, they’re going to be locked up with just their siblings for months,” he said. “They’re going to come out more socially awkward if they’re not around any other kids.”

When the students do return, the district has put mitigating measures in place in its schools to keep its students and faculty safe. In addition to extra cleaning and sanitation supplies being bought for each school, such as hand sanitizer. Ionizers, designed to destroy pathogens, have been installed in all of the HVAC systems in each of the district’s schools.

Along with parental input, the district utilized data provided by the Lincoln County Health Department, the Missouri Division of Health and Senior Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to come to its final decision.