The Mineral Area Activities Association Superintendent Association announced late Sunday that it would close 12 area schools beginning Wednesday to safeguard students and staff from COVID-19. This includes the Fredericktown R-I School District.
The letter said the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a unique challenge, and although there have been no known cases in the area, MAAA has made the decision with the recommendations of local health authorities to close their schools.
According to the letter all MAAA schools, as well as preschool programs, will close beginning Wednesday and will tentatively remain closed until April 6. Some schools already had spring break this week.
In light of this news, the Fredericktown School District has taken measures to ensure all students have access to food and will provide them with remote learning materials.
"We are very disappointed that the current status of COVID-19 has caused school closures throughout our nation," Fredericktown Assistant Superintendent Shannon Henson said. "There is no set of guidelines on how to handle this situation, but we know putting the safety of our students and staff always comes first."
Henson said they will need the help and understanding of our community as they try to navigate through the next few weeks.
"We appreciate all the thanks and support we have received the last 24 hours," Henson said. "We are looking forward to getting back to normal, hopefully sooner than later."
Starting Wednesday, March 18, the district plans to provide food service for those families in the community that could use resources.
"Please understand that we have to operate under state and federal guidelines in order to provide meals," Henson said. "Any child up to the age of 18 can receive these meals at no charge. They do not have to be enrolled in the school district. They do have to live in the school district."
On March 17, the district will begin taking calls between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the school building of your child to RSVP for March 18 lunch and March 19 breakfast. The number for Fredericktown Elementary School is 573-783-3477. For the intermediate school it is 573-783-6455, for the middle school it is 573-783-6555, and the high school number is 573-783-3628. Parents with children in multiple buildings can RSVP at one site but they are asked to indicate which buildings when they call.
Preschool parents should RSVP through the elementary, alternative school parents should RSVP through the middle school.
RSVP through your building on March 20 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. for meals the week of March 23 through 27. RSVP March 27 for meals the week of March 30 through April 3. Breakfast and lunch will be provided both weeks.
Families can RSVP for lunch and for breakfast the following day. For instance, on Wednesday we will provide Wednesday lunch and Thursday breakfast at the lunch pickup.
There will be no breakfast pickup but instead both lunch and next day breakfast will be available at the lunch time pickups.
Lunch will be pickup and delivery. Pickups will be available at each building from noon to 1 p.m.
Pickups will be curbside at the elementary school cafeteria, intermediate school gymnasium side doors, middle school will be behind the building and high school will be at the side doors by the cafeteria.
Meals cannot be eaten on site. They must be taken to go. If delivery is needed, your address needs to be provided at your building and deliveries will be made between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Deliveries may be delayed Thursday due to bus inspections.
"The Fredericktown R-I School district is currently providing 77 students weekly with a weekend supply of food through our Catpack program," Henson said. "Tomorrow (March 17), those 77 students will bring home a bag of food that would have been provided on March 20."
Henson said beginning March 27, the Catpacks will be available for pick up at the middle school during lunch pickups. He said if the family is receiving lunch deliveries on Fridays the Catpack will be delivered with the student's lunch.
"We hope that this helps relieve some of the burdens that this school closure has caused," Henson said.
The district will also be sending home packets of work with students on March 17. The work will cover the next two weeks.
"The goal is for these packets to keep students engaged with the content and their teacher and not necessarily cover all the gaps in curriculum that will be lost," Henson said. "Some teachers may also set up work through Google Classroom or other online resources, but we will include paper copies of this work in their packets for those who do not have internet access."
Each packet will also contain contact information for the child's teacher and information will be posted for parents on Google Classroom, the school website and Facebook.
Students in special services will have special education teachers available through email concerning any modifications to their work.
If your child is absent March 17, please contact your building to make arrangements to collect the assignments.
Henson said if the closure extends past April 3, the district will have materials provided through a link on the district website where parents and students can access additional assignments. Those without internet access will be provided with information on how to get physical copies.
"Our teachers will be very flexible in how we handle these assignments," Henson said. "We hope as a silver lining to this closure, parents will spend time with their child, engaged in their learning. We also will consider this a 'pilot' program for alternative methods of instruction in the future. Please have patience with our staff. This is overwhelming and will involve a lot of trial and error."
In an effort to help the local health department monitor the instances of illness in the community, the Fredericktown School District asks parents to report any illness in their families to the district. This is voluntary.
If a member of your family is ill, please contact one of the district schools from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m daily. You will be asked if you have shortness of breath, deep cough, gastrointestinal symptoms and fever greater than 100.4 degrees.
The MAAA said its made its decision after consultation with local officials about the need to practice social distancing, to limit gatherings of large groups in order to decrease the risk to the most vulnerable populations and to reduce the burden on the healthcare system.
"We are in uncharted territory while planning for the spread of COVID-9," MAAA stated in its letter. "It is difficult to predict where we will be in two days, much less two weeks from now."
In the letter, MAAA acknowledged the hardship this will create for many but said it is the best decision to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and keep students, families and staff healthy.
"During the break, we will be performing cleaning and disinfecting above and beyond our established practices at all schools and district offices," MAAA said. "We are waiting for guidance from MSHAA related to athletics and activities."
The letter said they know there will be many questions such as kindergarten registration, graduation, summer school, etc. and they will do their best to address all of the concerns.
"We are working on how to address these and other questions and will continue to keep you informed," MAAA said. "We appreciate your patience and support as we moved forward together. Thank you for your patience, your support and your understanding."
Marquand-Zion to close Thursday afternoon
Marquand-Zion School District Superintendent Scott Blake said the district will close at 3 p.m., Thursday (March 19) and stay closed through April 5. Blake added the district will "reevaluate a potential return date by April 3."
All school activities will be cancelled during the closure.
Parents can call the school for more information until 3 p.m., Thursday. The number is 573-783-3388. After Thursday afternoon, the building principals can be reached by email at: email@example.com for the elementary school or firstname.lastname@example.org for the high school.
Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at email@example.com
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