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Jackson school board eliminates contact tracing

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The Jackson R-2 School Board voted to eliminate COVID-19 contact tracing within the schools due to a high caseload of COVID-19 positive students and staff members.

The board met during a special Zoom meeting on Jan. 25 to revise the district’s COVID-19 re-entry plan and eliminate references to the school’s contact tracing. The vote was unanimous and was effective immediately.

“In the last week, our numbers are continuing to get to a point where our staff is stretched to a point where we cannot contact trace effectively,” Superintendent Scott Smith said during the meeting. “We do not feel like this is being a true benefit to our students or to our staff.”

The district recently taught virtually on Jan. 21 and Jan. 24 because of a rise in illnesses, including COVID-19, among students and staff members. As of Jan. 31, the district last updated its weekly COVID-19 dashboard on Jan. 19.

As of Jan. 19, the district had 90 students who were COVID-19 positive and an additional 94 students quarantined. At the same time, 19 staff members were COVID-19 positive and two staff members were quarantined.

Smith said the district would still ask students who tested positive for COVID-19 and those who live with a COVID-19 positive person to stay home, but no other quarantines will take place at the schools.

“We as a district will be encouraging, once again, our parents to keep their children home if they are running a fever, if they have a stomach bug, cough, sniffles or anything like that,” Smith said. “Our nurses would have the ultimate call to send someone home if they come to school sick.”

The contact tracer positions in the district were paid for through a grant from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The grant also covered the cost of COVID-19 tests and staff training.

Because of the grant funding, the district employees who were formally contact tracers are required to be directly associated with COVID-19 preventative measures. “Their duties would be adjusted,” Smith said. “Instead of contact tracing, they would take on some different roles related to COVID.”

Smith said these employees will primarily focus on communicating with students who have tested positive for COVID-19 and making sure they remain safe.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at

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