Gov. Mike Parson has enabled local school administrators to “make the best decisions for their communities as Missouri continues to combat the spread of COVID-19.”
He stated in a press release Tuesday that this approach has allowed for local solutions and also provided “maximum flexibility for leaders to address the effects of closing a school district.”
Parson said he is proud of the hard work and leadership which the state’s education leaders have shown during this public health emergency.
“Every school district has been impacted differently by COVID-19, and every community has responded in a way that meets their individual needs,” Parson said.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), following Parson’s Executive Order 2004, has removed barriers and provided the necessary flexibility for local school leaders to stay focused on the health and safety of their students, staff, and communities.
Among the announcements:
• Schools cannot resume classes before April 6.
• Schools which want to extend closure past April 6 have the option to do so.
• There will be no statewide required assessments for the 2019-20 school year.
• Schools will not be required to make up the days and hours lost due to COVID-19 this school year. Missed calendar hours will not affect the calculation of average daily attendance.
• Districts and charter schools should make attendance decisions based on the safety and wellbeing of their students and staff without concern that the low attendance numbers will negatively influence payment.
Due to school closures in response to COVID-19, DESE and the Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development (DHEWD) have made changes to some state programs. They have temporarily reduced or suspended certain A+ Scholarship Program eligibility requirements. These changes only apply to 2020 high school seniors and 2019-20 college students hoping to renew the scholarship for the 2020-21 school year:
• High school seniors working toward A+ eligibility will have a reduced number of tutoring/mentoring hours from 50 to 25.
• A student with a cumulative 2.5 GPA at the end of the Fall 2019 or Spring 2020 semester will be eligible.
• Some graduating seniors who are eligible for the A+ scholarship may still need to take an assessment. DESE will be working on these additional details. DESE has already applied for and received an expedited testing waiver from the U.S. Department of Education on March 20.
• DHEWD is working with DESE to develop guidance for the Algebra I endofcourse (EOC) exam requirement.
• College students utilizing the A+ scholarship were previously required to maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA to be eligible for renewal.
• Due to classes at many institutions unexpectedly moving to onlineonly options, a student must now meet only the school’s satisfactory academic progress requirements, even if the school requires less than a 2.5 GPA. Postsecondary institutions have the option to apply the All Available Hours exception to the fulltime enrollment requirement for students impacted by closures and/or alternative delivery methods.
Updates regarding student teaching:
• DESE has waived the requirements for any remaining student teaching and internship activities that would have taken place in schools. These future educators have worked hard over the last four years preparing for this important career. DESE will ensure that these new educators get the certificates they have earned.
Other announcements from DESE and the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) included the following:
• DESE Food & Nutrition team members worked quickly to secure the necessary USDA waivers to enable local schools to feed their students during COVID-19 closures as so many students rely on school meals each day. Those waivers give schools the ability to prepare and serve meals at their sites even though they are closed and to conduct meal service in different ways, such as grab-and-go style meals or sack lunches delivered throughout the community.
• Schools are encouraged to continue to prepare and serve food as they have been doing during the closure.
• Schools may continue to provide childcare when or if possible.
• DESE urged school officials to ensure social distancing protocol is being utilized when staff members are reporting to work.
• School leaders should evaluate which duties being performed are critical (making copies of educational materials to mail/deliver to students, providing childcare, etc.), and then explore how those tasks can be performed remotely or virtually.
Additional guidance may be issued if it becomes necessary in this rapidly evolving situation.
Pam Clifton is a contributing writer for the Daily Journal