Relative lack of COVID-19 impact in region allows schools to re-open as scheduled after premature shutdown of 2019-20 instruction last March

By PAUL STURM, C-T Staff Writer

LIVINGSTON COUNTY, Mo. — After a premature end to 2019-20 instruction, due to the onset of concerns across the United States about the then-beginning spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Livingston County’s Chillicothe R-2 and Southwest Livingston R-1 public school districts began their 2020-21 instruction years on their originally-planned dates Tuesday, albeit with plenty of accommodations and alterations.

Approximately 1,785 kindergarten-through-12th grade students were enrolled to attend Chillicothe public schools (not including Grand River Technical School). However, of those, approximately 10% to 12% initially signed up for “distance learning” as a COVID-19 precautionary measure, rather than physically attending at a building site.

While Tuesday technically qualified as a Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education-required day of attendance and instruction for the Chillicothe district’s fifth graders down through kindergarteners, it was not a normal, full day. Students in those grades were, along with a parent, participating in short (approximately 15 minutes) orientation sessions with the students’ homeroom teachers to discuss in detail how COVID-19-related measures will alter their daily schedules and procedures, at least in the early months of this school year. Those students then had their initial full day of classroom instruction Wednesday.

The middle and high schools and GRTS had their “normal” classes, beginning Tuesday, albeit with logistical and procedural changes made to mitigate risks of spreading the coronavirus.

While the majority of Missouri public schools, particularly in rural areas, began their new year on time, in some of the metropolitan areas and larger cities, some private and/or public schools either were not or were doing so on strictly a “virtual” (internet-connected distance learning) basis.

For Livingston County’s other high school, Southwest Livingston at Ludlow, while also having instituted health-related preventative measures in response to the pandemic threat, the start of this school year also marked its changeover from 5-days-a-week instruction to a 4-days-a-week model.

Southwest Livingston R-1 students will attend classes Tuesdays through Fridays each week. Several other small, rural school districts in the area had made that change in recent years, including Southwest’s fellow Carroll-Livingston Activity Association members Tina-Avalon, Mendon: Northwestern, and Keytesville.

Both the Chillicothe and Southwest Livingston school districts – and, presumably, all schools – have in place plans and procedures for transitioning to full-time off-site (distance) learning – either on a short- or long-term basis – without interruption to the instruction schedule, should COVID-19 become a more-significant problem in the county than it has been to date or particularly within a school building’s or district’s student and staff populations.