As school districts continue to prepare for the upcoming school year, Governor Mike Parson met with school administrators and teachers from across the state to discuss their plans for this fall and how they are navigating the challenges of COVID-19.
Over the past week, Governor Parson met with educators and administrators in the Jefferson City, Neosho, Springfield, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Northeast Missouri regions.
“We are very grateful for the hard work of our superintendents, administrators, teachers, and all school staff members to prepare for the upcoming school year,” Governor Parson said. “It was encouraging to hear about their plans to resume teaching, whether that be onsite classes, virtual learning, or a hybrid of both.”
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Every school district will look different based on the needs of its students and community,” Governor Parson continued.
The Governor’s Office has worked closely with the Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to address key questions on school reopening. On Monday, DESE and DHSS released updated school reopening guidance addressing more frequently asked questions for the upcoming school year.
The document, initially published on July 9, now includes information on the reactive strategies that Missouri schools should be prepared to address upon reopening, including what to do if a student or staff member becomes symptomatic at school, how to handle positive cases of COVID-19 in the school community, and how to best prepare to assist local health officials with contact identification and tracing.
To assist school districts with personal protective equipment (PPE), 1.8 million cloth masks have been made available through the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA). DESE and SEMA are currently working to develop a plan to distribute the masks to school districts. DESE and DHSS have also released PPE guidance for school nurses.
Additionally, $7.5 million of the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund has been allocated to a cost-share program with local counties to help schools cover the costs of PPE as well as cleaning and medical supplies for school buildings and buses. Schools may also use Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief Funds provided under the CARES Act for any COVID-19 related expenses, including PPE costs.
As many students rely on school meals each day, the state has also taken steps to ensure schools can continue to feed their students throughout COVID-19. During school closures this spring, the Missouri National Guard provided additional personnel to pack and distribute meals to students across the state.
Working in conjunction with DESE, the National Guard helped pack, load, and distribute approximately 288,000 meals to Missouri students from April 24 to July 31. Multiple schools in 12 school districts were supported through the partnership, including Cameron, St. Louis, Wright City R-II, Cape Girardeau, North St. Francois County, Hickman Mills, Tolbert, Marshall, St. Clair, Meadow Heights, Kingston, and Plato.
“As we move forward with this school year, we remain focused on the health and safety of our students, school staff, and communities as a whole,” Governor Parson said.
This week, Governor Parson will meet with leadership from Missouri colleges and universities to discuss higher education reopening plans.