Missouri education commissioner talks upcoming school year

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JEFFERSON CITY — Department of Elementary and Secondary Education director Margie Vandeven laid out some of the biggest challenges for planning the new school year amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"Education will look different in the future," she said. 

One of the biggest issues is the digital divide. Vandeven said that unequal access to broadband internet and internet devices makes relying on online learning options challenging. 

“While educational opportunities continue to be provided during the school closures, one in five Missouri students could not take part in those options,” she said. “That means making any kind of long term remote learning a real challenge for those students.” 

Vandeven spoke to Missourians during Governor Mike Parson’s regular COVID-19 briefing at the Capitol on Thursday afternoon. 

She emphasized that many of the day-to-day decisions about school, like class size, social distancing and mask requirements will be left to individual districts. 

Across the state, Vandeven said that the department is encouraging students to stay home when they are sick. This means removing attendance as a metric for school performance at the state level, and asking individual schools to reconsider perfect attendance awards. 

The comments came as Missouri saw the largest single-day jump of confirmed cases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services confirmed an additional 553 cases, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 19,421. The department credited a backlog of tests for the increase.