After talking to officials at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and several school superintendents from rural and urban areas across the state, Governor Mike Parson announced Friday that all Missouri public and charter school buildings will remain closed through the remainder of the academic year. The announcement immediately put local school districts into discussions about what to do about prom and graduation.
“Continuing our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, I am ordering all public and charter schools to remain closed through the remainder of this academic year, with the exception of nutrition and child care outlined in our Stay Home Missouri Order,” Parson said.
School services are expected to continue through the last day of school in each school district as pre-established by the academic calendar approved by their local board of education. These continued services include alternative educational opportunities as well as providing much-needed meals to students who count on them.
In the Cuba School District, officials announced Monday that a survey will be sent out to seniors and their parents to get their feelings on what graduation and prom might look like this year. That survey should get underway this week.
“We are going to let them vote on would they rather have a virtual graduation in May or hold on for a traditional graduation later in the summer,” said Cuba High School Principal Tim Webster. “My hope is that if they choose to have a traditional graduation that we will still hold prom.”
Webster also released a letter to CHS seniors on Monday.
“The stories the class of 2020 will now have to share with their future families, friends and children one day are endless. During these extraordinary times you can truly say that you are living a once in a lifetime event,” wrote Webster. “I wanted to take a second to express to you how sorry I am that your senior year is ending this way. Please have your minds at ease that we are working hard to find a plan to conduct prom and graduation. I will make sure I communicate those plans to you as quickly as possible. Please keep checking your email as well as Facebook and Twitter for those announcements.
“I want to let every one of you know that you have had a positive impact on my life in the last four years. I have considered it a privilege to know each one of you. I am thankful for the way you have all treated me and would not take those experiences back for anything. I only hope that you feel I have showed you the same respect in the last four years. I hate the fact I did not get to see the excitement on your faces on the last day of school. I also hate the fact we did not get to have our senior day this year where we could all spend the day together. I am sorry you lost those experiences.
“I hope that you are all still doing your work and that you stay healthy, keep your heads up, and prepare for the exciting time ahead of graduation!”
Bourbon Superintendent Kyle Gibbs said the district is postponing both prom and graduation until the district can determine that improvement is being made in the pandemic situation and some restrictions are lifted.
“The hope will be to host these events in late June or July,” Gibbs said. “If we have prom, it would be a day or two before graduation. Bourbon will have to host graduation early in the day because our gym still lacks air conditioning and with a July graduation it would be tough to put too many in our gym in an afternoon or evening event.”
DESE will issue additional guidance to Missouri school leaders in the near future. In conjunction with the Governor’s Office, DESE is continuing efforts to help local school leaders by removing barriers and waiving the necessary state statutes and regulations.
Additional K-12 information and guidance can be found at dese.mo.gov/COVID19. In addition to this announcement, Governor Parson emphasized the state’s “Stay Home Missouri” Order and social distancing measures are working to help combat COVID-19. Governor Parson’s “Stay Home Missouri” Order will remain in effect through Friday, April 24.
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