Local schools close for next three weeks to fight possible coronavirus outbreak

Kaleena Ricketts

With nearly 3,500 cases of the COVID-19 virus in the United States alone, it was only a matter of time before the state of Missouri was directly affected. Now, most local schools have closed through April 3 following direction from local health departments.
Several ounces of prevention are being used in the situation, as there are currently no cases of COVID-19 reported in Lawrence County. Eight cases have been confirmed in the state as of Tuesday, March 17, which is still on the lower end compared to states like Washington and New York, each having hundreds of confirmed cases of the virus. Those numbers, however, are expected to rise, possibly drastically, in the following weeks and months.
Across the country, some churches have gone to online services only, some restaurants have been forced to no longer allow diners inside, instead converting to only takeout items, and many schools have chosen to no longer have classes, all in hopes of possibly containing the virus and decreasing the spread.
Among schools closing their doors for the next several weeks, all schools in Lawrence County and most schools in surrounding counties, including Greene and Christian.
“Governor Mike Parson recently placed Missouri under a state of emergency in response to the potential spread of the virus COVID-19. This is in addition to the state of emergency issued for the entire nation by President Trump. The state of emergency does not apply to the closing of public schools, and the governor has asked local school administration to make such decisions regarding the closing of schools in collaboration with the county health department,” said Mt. Vernon Superintendent Scott Cook.
On Monday, March 16, schools across southwest Missouri decided to shut their doors in hopes of slowing the spread of the virus.
Social distancing…
During the extended time at home, families are urged to practice “social distancing” which is a term described by the CDC as “certain actions that are taken by Public Health officials to stop or slow down the spread of a highly contagious disease. The Health Officer has the legal authority to carry out social distancing measures.” Basically, individuals are encouraged to stay home as much as possible, limiting time spent in public areas with others.
Luckily local school officials had contingency plans in place in case the need for closing their campuses arose.
Superintendents of Mt. Vernon, Miller, Pierce City and Verona schools all released statements on Monday, March 16, regarding the closings.
“Following recommendations from the Lawrence County Health Department, area schools will be closed as of Tuesday, March 17 through Monday, April 6. At that time, situations will be evaluated and it will be determined whether or not it is a good time for students to return to classes,” stated Cook.
Dr. Billy Redus, Superintendent of Aurora Schools, reported “This decision was made after careful consideration regarding student and staff health. I apologize for the hardship caused for students, parents, teachers and staff.”
Miller Schools were out of class on Monday and were notified through phone calls and social media that they would not be returning to school for a minimum of three weeks. In his statement, Dr. Dustin Storm said, “The Miller R-2 School District will comply with the health departments recommendation and cancel school and suspend all school related functions, effective immediately through Friday, April 3. This will include all extra-curricular and co-curricular activities and practices.” Spring sports have been put on hold at each school for the foreseeable future, although MSHSAA was quick to say that the seasons haven’t been canceled altogether. Yet.
Districts still feed students…
Several schools, although closing, will still make sure students will have plenty to eat while at home.
In statements released by each school, Monett, Verona, Miller, Mt. Vernon and Pierce City, all said they would still be able to provide meals each day for students that may need it, quick to point out that the well-being of their students was their utmost priority.
Mt. Vernon Schools began providing ‘Grab and Go’ meals for all students on Tuesday, March 17. These meals will be available for pick-up at the west entrance of the Intermediate School and at the north side drop off area at the Elementary School between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Each meal will include lunch for that day and breakfast for the following day. Building administrators will be reaching out to individuals to see if meals need to be provided. The school is also working on partnering with local volunteers to provide delivery for those that may not be able to pick meals up.
Monett and Verona will have similar plans in effect and families are encouraged to reach out to school administrators if they are needing assistance during this uneasy time.
 The Miller School District will also have meals available for curbside pickup, but details were unavailable as of press time.
Make up days…
Many have wondered how long the closures will last and what that will mean for the end of the school year. Will it be extended, forcing students to be in class for most of the summer, or will time out be forgiven? Many factors come in to play in this instance, such as low attendance and financials.
In an email statement received from Storm, he stated, “As for the days being forgiven, we have not received any definite answers. The following is a direct quote from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education from a memo that was sent out to Missouri superintendents on Friday, March 13, 2020:
“LEA’s should seek the guidance and recommendation of local health officials when considering school closures. DESE is working to provide flexibility to allow LEA’s to make decisions focused on the health and safety of students, staff and community members, without concern about low attendance negatively impacting district or charter school accountability metrics and payment.”
 The memo went on to say, “The CDC recently shared new considerations for school closure. If an LEA closes, we ask that school officials immediately contact their DESE Area Supervisor of Instruction to notify the department of your closure plans. The LEA must also submit an official letter to the Commissioner of Education, upon resuming classes, detailing the closure and requesting forgiveness of the missed school hours.”


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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