Greetings from the fourth floor of your Missouri Capitol. Summer is on us, and with the Missouri heat and humidity, we're definitely feeling the effects of the weather. If you need to be out and especially for those who have to work in the heat, drink plenty of fluids, take breaks and find shade when you can. It's common sense advice, but do get out and enjoy our wonderful Missouri summer with your family and friends while maintaining social distance and respecting other space. This seems to be the way things are going right, now and it is my hope and prayer it will all end very soon.
This past week, I had the honor of being in the governor's office for the signing of SB 656, which was an omnibus bill passed at the end of session that included my bill HB 1473, the Central Missouri Honor Flight license plate bill. While I am not a big fan of omnibus bills, this one stayed with the protocol of all the bills being related to veterans and the military. If you recall, HB 1473 would create a license plate for our Central Missouri Honor Flight. The Central Missouri Honor Flight had its first flight in May 2009 beginning with the WWII veterans and then moving on to Korean veterans and now the Vietnam veterans. They have had 61 flights taking 4,595 veterans to Washington, D.C., in what has been a life-changing trip for so many veterans. Memories are shared of their time served in the military, and one of the highlights is "mail call" where every veteran is presented with letters from home. There isn't a dry eye in the place. For all you veterans out there, you will remember mail call and how many times, when your name was not called, you walked away empty-handed having to wait for the next mail call. Not on the Honor Flight. Every veteran receives mail from those who love and care for them. Other bills included in SB 656 are the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial in Kansas City, state ombudsman for long-term care facilities in the veterans homes, job opportunities for veterans, service dogs and animals, child protection for military families, Meritorious Service Medal special license plate and a few others which will impact the veteran and military communities. I am proud of the work the Central Missouri Honor Flight has done, and giving them this honor of a designate license plate is a true testament to that hard work.
I received notification from the governor's office about a resource for state employees that the Department of Mental Health is doing: self-care sessions via webinar for all state employees that started this past July 14. DMH CARES (Communicating and Reaching Employees Supportively) is a live, interactive wellness webinar held every Tuesday from 3:30-4 p.m. Sponsored by Missouri's FEMA Crisis Counseling Program known as Show Me Hope, all state of Missouri employees are encouraged to join the call for mental health/wellness tips, stress management exercises, resilience education and disaster recovery resources.
Any state employee who wishes to participate may register at DMH CARE-Show Me Hope. There is a link for registration. This is a great resource for our state employees, and in these trying times, I would encourage all who have concerns or are just looking for additional information on mental health to attend this webinar. On the topic of state employees, I am disappointed the proposed salary compensation increase will not be happening because of the budget cuts. Please know I am a strong advocate for our state civil servants and will work diligently to get you the compensation you deserve, and I want to personally thank you for your service to our state and community.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released a document this past week that answers frequently asked questions about K-12 school reopenings and health-related guidance — dese.mo.gov/sites/default/files/COVID-MO-K12-Reopening-Guidance.pdf. The document aims to provide additional clarity and consistency for Missouri school leaders and public health officials as they make decisions about school reopening strategies at the local level. There are no statewide health mandates related to K-12 school reopenings being issued at this time, and it is important to note local school boards and jurisdictions have the authority to implement more stringent or less restrictive preventative measures than those listed in this document.
Across the country, the majority of health officials, educators and families seem to agree: They want to reopen schools this fall but in a way that continues to protect public health.
"While closing school buildings in March was necessary, there are a number of serious consequences that can come from our student's not attending school in-person," Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven said. "These implications are being considered along with the continued risk of COVID-19. Therefore, school leaders and local health officials are working thoughtfully to reopen our schools — knowing that school operations must take place differently to better protect public health and combat the spread of the virus."
The FAQs addressed in the document centered around the proactive strategies K-12 school leaders can implement to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and best protect their students, staff members and communities, including recommended protocols regarding screening, physical distancing and face coverings. DHSS and DESE leaders are working alongside a group of Missouri's top pediatric infectious disease doctors to quickly answer additional questions about reactive strategies and procedures for K-12 schools. Those procedures that continue to be discussed include: How to isolate symptomatic students or staff members when they are at school, how to handle positive cases of COVID-19, and how to best be prepared to assist local health officials with contact tracing efforts. Answers to those important questions will be added to this FAQ document as soon as possible.
In May, representatives from DHSS and DESE worked with the Missouri School Boards' Association to publish the "Pandemic Recovery Consideration: Re-Entry and Reopening of Schools" document, which contains more thorough and detailed information for school leaders to review and consider when developing their local plans for returning to on-site teaching and learning.
There are so many other topics I want to share with you but will wait for my next column. As always, if you have any questions or concerns that my office can be of assistance on please don't hesitate to give us a call. Remember to shop local, and shop Missouri. Stay safe!
State Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, represents Missouri's 60th District, and shares his perspective on statehouse issues twice a month.