Governor Parson announces school closure order

Posted on 9 April 2020 at 4:17pm

JEFFERSON CITY - Governor Mike Parson announced the closure of public and charter schools for the rest of the academic year at a press conference on Thursday, April 9. 

The announcement comes amid COVID-19 concerns. 

Parson said the decision was made by working together with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and several superintendents from across the state. 

Parson believes schools should continue remote learning for their students until the end date previously set on their academic calendars. 

Schools will still provide services like meals to students who need them and alternative educational opportunities.

Missouri commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Margie Vandeven said the decision was made to protect the health and safety of students and teachers. Remote learning programs can vary across different school districts and parts of the state.

"We are simply asking our school leaders to continue to be creative, innovative and persistent in their pursuit to reach students with some kind of academic opportunity," she said. "We see some schools are delivering to the front doorsteps packages to students who may not have access to technology or the internet, while other teachers and students are learning to navigate video conferencing software to deliver and receive instruction."

The announcement by the Governor on Thursday raised a number of questions Vandeven said DESE is still working to answer. Among them: What about summer school? What does it mean for graduating seniors? What about those who do not have a reliable internet connection?

During Thursday's media briefing, the Governor expressed his sympathy to graduating seniors, noting his granddaughter is among the Class of 2020.

"I understand how disappointing this will be, to not be able to have that graduation ceremony," he said. "We will work with DESE, we will work with superintendents across the state, to make sure you get the opportunity to walk down that aisle and receive that diploma at some point."

Columbia Public Schools spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said the district considered the possibility of an announcement like this when they released a revised alternative learning plan on Monday.

"While we had hoped that we might be able to return, obviously, it's in the best interest of public health and safety that we remain close," Baumstark said. "But we will continue with what we have in place with alternative methods of instruction and remote learning through the end of the school year."

Baumstark said CPS officials are still discussing what graduation will look like, but it will not take place as scheduled on May 22 and 23.

"We understand that it's an important rite of passage for our students and their families," she said. "So we're continuing to have those conversations and we want to be able to make that happen for them if we can."

Jefferson City schools released a statement on Thursday, following the announcement by Parson. 

The school district announced they will continue to provide instruction as they currently are through the remainder of the school year, which ends Tuesday, May 28. 

"In the coming days, JC Schools will continue to assess our methods for reaching and teaching our students outside of the classroom," the statement said. "Staff members will continue collecting feedback from students and families on a regular basis to ensure we are adapting to meet your needs."

The school district is currently planning on beginning summer school as scheduled on June 1. They will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and make decisions regarding summer school closer to that time.