R-1 continues fight against coronavirus

Ray Scherer


The Gasconade County R-1 School District appears to be making some headway against the adverse local effects created by the pandemic, thanks to funding and precautions by students, staff, and families.


The R-1 Board of Education heard updates on the district's struggles with coronavirus during a regular meeting on Thursday night. Superintendent Dr. Scott Smith said there were two active cases of COVID-19 in the district, with around 10 people on quarantine. Since the start of the 2020-'21 academic year, there have been a total of 15 positive tests. Two of the quarantined students were high schoolers.


The numbers reflect a major downturn from the 169 students placed into quarantine five to six weeks ago, said Smith. He said the reduction shows the effort made to follow precautionary guidelines.


"I am very proud of all the school community," he told the board.


Smith told the directors that the district is hopeful of receiving more funding from the CARES Act, based on an Oct. 7 announcement that the state will receive $133 million in critical services funding, including nearly $95 million in CARES funds and $40 million in general revenue. About $100 million of these funds will support K-12 and higher education. The district must demonstrate in its applications that it qualified for the funding as a means of offsetting expenses incurred by coronavirus. Smith said such money would be directed to cover virtual learning costs.


Under current projections, Gasconade County schools are set to receive more than $87,000 to share in virus-related funds for the installation of Wi-Fi connectivity on eight school buses. Smith said the Wi-Fi could prove important in offering wireless internet to Hermann schools in case the virus forces the district to shut down in-person classes. The buses can be parked at Swiss or other strategic locations as needed to provide the access. The football field is one other area in Hermann that features Wi-Fi access that's also available to the entire community.


Hermann and Owensville schools are fostering a partnership that would target virus spending for both districts on a per-student basis. The proposal will involve input from the Gasconade County Commission and Meramec Regional Planning Commission, which both must sign off on CARES submissions from various entities and businesses in and around both cities.


The district will hold a Coffee & Conversation at 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, at Fernweh Distilling, for the discussion of various topics related to the schools. The public is invited to attend.