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Pandemic and Education Discussed Friday in Shelbina

State Senator Cindy O’Laughlin (right) speaks during a town hall forum held Friday, Oct. 16 in Shelbina. On the left is Shelby County Health Department Administrator Audrey Gough. Photograph by Marlana Smith

By Troy Treasure

  Approximately 40 people attended a hastily-arranged town hall forum regarding COVID-19 and the pandemic’s impact on local education Friday evening, Oct. 16 at Hawkins Theater in Shelbina.

  District 18 State Senator Cindy O’Laughlin (R-Shelbina) and Shelby County Health Department Administrator Audrey Gough expressed, at times, disagreement during the two-hour gathering.

  At one point, a questioner rose to his feet, voiced support of O’Laughlin and walked out.

  Gough stated the health dept. is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

  “We are not treating COVID-19 any differently than we would treat a case of measles, a case of whooping cough, a case of mumps, a case of Ebola or whatever the new disease of the day is,” Gough said.

  She later referred to CDC procedures as the, “gold standard.”

  O’Laughlin, chairperson of the senate’s education committee, emphasized families and individuals should have more of a say regarding their health and education.

  “Most of the input I get is if the kids could continue to come to school and wear a mask if they were in close contact, at least then they would not be missing school. That is their big concern,” O’Laughlin said. “At this moment, they are not allowed to do that.”

  Gough indicated, as of Friday, South Shelby High School had eight students with coronavirus, three of whom were diagnosed while quarantined.

  “Three of those (eight) have been pretty sick,” she said.

  Last week, South Shelby implemented a hybrid class schedule for grades six through 12.

  Gough said 75-to-90 students had been quarantined (persons in close contact with a positive case). Approximately 25 had been allowed to return to school.

  Gough and Shelby County R-IV School Board President Dr. Jim Foster agreed if all goes well, the South Shelby middle and high schools could return to regular class schedules the first week of November.

  Foster indicated his district, and others, must consider potential legal consequences.

  “Every superintendent has on speed-dial the number of a lawyer,” Foster said.

  Of those in attendance at the forum it appeared seven people wore masks, including two reporters.