The U.S. Department of Education says Missouri’s K-12 schools will get nearly $2 billion in total federal aid from the latest coronavirus plan. State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokeswoman Mallory McGowin said health experts suggest spending some of the virus funding on the basics.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson visits a St. Louis school on July 29, 2020 (file photo courtesy of the governor’s Flickr page)

“The experts shared that while good sanitation in schools is never something that you should omit, purchasing those UV cleaning systems that can be quite pricey or spending a lot of money to do these extraordinary cleaning measures may not be the place to invest your resources. The experts shared that continuing to purchase masks for students, continuing some of those other mitigation strategies would be a better place to drop their dollars into,” she said.

As schools consider what to use the money for, McGowin said many Missouri schools are not set up to have much social distancing.

“If you’re not able to utilize that layer of protection – keeping students and staff at least three feet apart now per the new CDC guidance – then you need to layer on the additional mitigation strategies. That’s when masks become prudent. That’s when the plexiglass barriers and things like that become something you really need to sink your energy into,” she said.

Some Missouri communities and local school boards have lifted coronavirus restrictions. McGowin said now is not the time to ease up school health rules.

“From our perspective and the perspective of the Department of Health and Senior Services, all are in alignment that those mitigation strategies that schools are using and that we’re seeing work must remain in place to ensure that we can continue to offer those in-person learning opportunities safety and with little to no interruption,” she said.

The state strongly encourages the use of face masks but McGowin said there are no financial penalties against schools that do not require masks.

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