Gov. Mike Parson has ordered that all of Missouri’s 555 public and charter schools remain closed through the rest of the academic year. The decision is in response to the coronavirus outbreak that has killed at least 77 people and infected more than 3,500 others in Missouri.
In mid-March, Parson left it up to local districts to decide whether to call off classes. Schools have been closed ever since.
Kids won’t get off the hook that easily. During today’s COVID-19 briefing, Missouri K-12 Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven says remote learning will continue through the end of the school calendar year.
“School buildings will remain closed for the rest of the school year, but school continues,” she says.
Student meals will also continue through the academic year. Some districts are delivering meals to students and others are doing a “grab-n-go” concept.
“We know maybe now more than ever just how important our public schools are, how critical the services are that they provide their local communities and how important the work is that our educators do each day for our children,” says Vandeven.
During this unprecedented time, some parents have been brushing up on their education from earlier years by taking on the role of homeschooling and doing a little bonding with their kids at the same time. Some might have had to quit their jobs due to lack of childcare while their kids have been home. Others have had to juggle paid jobs, kids at home and helping with homework. Vandeven says the recommendation she made to the governor is not one that she made lightly.
She encourages school leaders to continue being creative and innovative in reaching students.
“We see some schools mailing or delivering to the front doorsteps packages to students who may not have access to technology or the internet,” says Vandeven. “While other teachers and students are learning to navigate video conferencing software to deliver and receive instruction, we cannot applaud these educators enough as well as our families at home for stepping up to the plate to make learning a possibility amid this new normal.”
In a statement from Melissa Randol, executive director of the Missouri School Boards’ Association, she says she agrees with the decision.
“Even though traditional classes will not resume this school year, education of our students will continue for the remainder of the year. The buildings may be closed, but quality education continues,” says Randol. “The Governor’s closure of schools is a necessary step to protect the health and safety of our students, teachers, staff and communities. In spite of the unprecedented challenges of the remote learning environment, our innovative educators throughout the state prioritize the needs of our children and continue to offer quality instructional opportunities.”
Vandeven says the department is working quickly to address district questions about summer school, graduation, internet broadband problems, among others.
Gov. Parson says Missouri’s high school seniors have worked hard for twelve years and the state will figure out a way for them to still walk down the graduation aisle at some point.