BELLE — Area superintendents are scrambling to determine what the remainder of the 2019-20 school year will look like following Gov. Mike Parson’s April 9 announcement that Missouri …
BELLE — Area superintendents are scrambling to determine what the remainder of the 2019-20 school year will look like following Gov. Mike Parson’s April 9 announcement that Missouri schools would not reopen.
Parson issued a “stay at home order” on April 3 to Missourians, making him one of the last governors to issue the order. Since then, eight state governors out of the 50 states have refrained from issuing a “stay at home order.” However, Parson was with many other state governors when it came to closing school districts for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
Superintendents Dr. Lenice Basham at Maries County R-2 and Dr. Chuck Garner at Gasconade County R-2 said they are both working for their respective schools to determine what the outcome of the school year will hold.
Basham said grades, graduation, prom and summer school are just a few of the coming plans they are working out.
“The recommendation from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is to use the hold-harmless model where the kids are not given a negative grade for work they completed during closure,” Basham said. “It will be extra credit to help the third quarter grade for the semester.”
In some instances, grades will be taken on a case by case basis. Garner said they are still providing learning opportunities for students in Gasconade County R-2 as the closure continues.
“It will look different from what a normal classroom setting would look like because the teacher is not there every day,” Garner said. “But they are still providing feedback, they are still providing the support that they can via email, phone calls or virtual. It will look and feel different because of the situation that we are in.”
Garner said everybody’s situation is different and unique and the school is trying to be responsive to those needs. Many of the Gasconade County R-2 students in middle school and high school have been using Chromebooks on loan from the district since March 17. Elementary students who have access to the internet may utilize tools from the district’s website or print-off a secondary homework packet from the site.
“You can go to our website and find your class’ assignments there,” Garner said about new assignments. “They may also be emailed to the students, or, students or parents may arrange to pick-up packets.”
Maries County R-2 students have already submitted their first round of school work and are now on spring break, according to Basham.
“We went on spring break so there were no new assignments given prior to last Thursday,” she said. “New assignments go out Wednesday, April 15, for those who get them virtually. New paper packets will be distributed during meal pick-up on Tuesday evening from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Belle campus.
The break was to hopefully give teachers time to create more distance-learning course work. Submission boxes were set up outside for homework and will be left outdoors for a week in “quarantine” before being distributed to teachers. Library books may also be returned inside the Belle High School foyer.
Garner said it is unclear how completed homework during the closure will affect grades at this point.
“Our goal is to insure our students are being taken care of first socially, emotionally and nutritionally, the second is providing the learning opportunities for those kiddos so that when we do come back to a traditional school setting they are not further behind than they would be in a traditional school setting,” Garner said. “That is more important to us than a traditional letter grade. We are trying to make sure the students have those learning opportunities for growth.”
Garner said they know they are going to have those issues, but want to keep the curve from being catastrophic in its decline. Their goal is to keep students as close to grade level as possible so when students do come back, the district can move on from there.
As for senior events like prom and graduation, Basham says they haven’t lost all hope yet.
“At this point all we have done is postpone prom and graduation,” she said. “The seniors are meeting with (Principal Lea) Hickerson at the beginning of next week on Zoom to get some input on graduation.”
Garner added that they are working on alternative plans for those celebrations.
“It depends on what the health department and what congress says about when we can start congregating again,” Garner said. “We have discussed various other alternative celebrations, but we are hoping to be able to schedule a traditional graduation celebration at this point. But when is that? We don’t know that yet.”
Before making any final decisions about graduation, Basham said she would like to know the results of conversations with students and parents first.
“As for graduation, I think we will hold a graduation ceremony but we won’t know until after the governor says when we can get large groups back together,” Basham said.
That also places summer school classes on hold.
“No decisions about summer school have been made at this point,” Basham said. “We have completed an application to have summer school for two weeks after school is out and/or two weeks prior to school in August and hope we get at least one. We have been approved for both if the governor releases us to go back in time.”
Basham is hoping they will have some type of credit recovery for those students who were failing classes.
Since Parson closed schools, Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) has also canceled all spring sports activities, effectively skipping the season without it beginning besides about 10 practice sessions.
“We feel bad for all of our athletes and students who have not gotten to participate in activities they have looked forward to all year long,” Basham said.
However, meal provisions will continue as usual for both districts as each school system will continue to provide a week’s worth of food to community children ages 1 to 18-years-old through the remainder of the school year.
Maries R-2 has been providing meals since March 19 and will do so until May 21, the scheduled end of their calendar year. Gasconade R-2 started providing meals on March 23 and will continue through May 20, the end of their scheduled calendar year.
“We’ve also started doing five breakfasts, five lunches, and snacks, two for each day,” Basham said. “We will get input from students on how that went this week.”
Maries R-2 food director, Liz Crater has kept up with the demand at Maries County R-2 so far.
“Liz Crater and her people are doing an amazing job getting food to the kiddos,” Basham added. “They get into a routine and parents know what to do.”
Garner added that the school closure order from the governor won’t change what the Gasconade R-2 District is currently providing.
“We are still going to feed our kiddos once a week, the whole week, through the end of the year,” Garner said. “Will it go beyond the scheduled last day? We don’t know that yet.”
Garner said according to the governor, services will continue through the last scheduled school calendar day.
Basham and Garner originally speculated that participation in the meals would drop after a week or two of the school closure, but the opposite has happened.
“We see an increase in meal participants every week and will continue that,” Basham said.
“We have gone up every week so far,” he said. “I don’t know what this week will do.”
As teachers are still working and instructing children, Garner said all of their employees will continue to be paid.
“They are still contacting kids, still creating lessons, they are still making phone calls, handing out food, making food — all of that is still going on,” Garner said.
While DESE continues to work with schools, noting the situation is unprecedented, Garner said he does see schools and the department creating a response if something similar should ever happen again.
“We hope our response could be better. I think our teachers and our staff, custodians and cooks have done a tremendous job,” Garner said. “Just like everything that you go through, you look back at what you did and think ‘now, could we plan better or can we be prepared better?’ That will be the question once we get through this. What can we do to ensure a plan if this ever happens again.”