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Teachers Unions Inform MO Families About Safe Return To School; Supply Drive Held During Tax Holiday

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St. Louis public-school students are encouraged to come to Gateway Middle School Saturday for information, health screenings, vaccines and school supplies ahead of the first day of school on Aug. 23.

St. Louis educators' unions are working to let families know what to expect at school this fall, and urging them to get ready.

School returns on August 23, and the American Federation of Teachers in St. Louis along with St. Louis Public Schools are holding what they call a "Safe Start Celebration," with health screenings and information about COVID safety precautions in schools.

Byron Clemens, spokesperson for the American Federation of Teachers St. Louis Local 420, noted they are encouraging families whose children did not attend school regularly during the pandemic to return full-time this fall.

"There's a mandatory mask for every child, all the staff and faculty, visitors," Clemens explained. "We're still continuing to offer vaccines for every employee, and we're doing our best to protect not just ourselves, but the children and the community at large."

At the event from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Saturday at Gateway Middle School in St. Louis, public-school students can get vaccinated against COVID-19; have dental, vision, hearing and lead screenings; register for school and confirm their school location; and receive free books, backpacks and school supplies.

Clemens added part of the reason they want to be extra transparent with families this year is because of the disruptions to education that have made it more difficult for many kids to learn. He acknowledged going from in-person to virtual learning to hybrid and back to in-person has not been easy, but he is confident they can handle this next school year safely.

"We're very, very pleased with compliance of 3- and 4-year-olds wearing masks, all the way through high school," Clemens emphasized. "That's been exciting for us, because we weren't sure when we first put out these plans that that would work, and it turns out that it does. "

In Southeast Missouri, the Neelyville School District will be hosting their own walk through vaccine clinic in Butler County. The one-time event scheduled for Aug. 17th, will take place at 289 Broadway Street in Neelyville, MO from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Remote learning posed difficulties for many students, especially those who are low-income or don't have reliable high-speed internet. Groups advocating for equitable education hope a safe return to school will help reduce the divide.

This weekend, Missouri is once again holding a Sales Tax Holiday which runs from Fri. Aug. 6 to Sun. Aug. 8.

The United Way of Southeast Missouri is also partnering with area groups and Walmart to collect basic school supplies for children in need during their annual “Stuff the Bus” campaign. School buses will be parked in front of participating Walmart stores on Aug. 6th and 7th from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during Missouri’s tax-free weekend.

Athletic groups, student clubs, faculty, and staff from participating schools will be out collecting thousands of school supplies donated by community members across the entire Southeast Missouri region.

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