Schools Continue Educating, Serving Communities During Shutdown

by James McNary, Articles Editor

Last week, various school districts and parochial schools across Missouri made the decision to dismiss in-person classes at least until April 6, and an executive order issued this weekend by Gov. Michael Parson could extend the closure of schools even past that date. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has already announced that districts will not have to perform the yearly standardized testing typically held this time of year, or make-up days missed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Area schools have responded to the closure in various ways, with efforts to continue educating students remotely and continue to receive a meal they would usually get at school among the priorities for most.

Round Grove Christian Academy, in the Round Grove community northwest of Miller, has not held classes in-person since last Monday. Staff have been working on various methods to continue educating students.

“Our teachers have each been set up with online options which allows them to instruct their students daily through YouTube, Facebook and Google Classroom,” said Tammy McCanless, RGCA administrator. “Our staff is also available everyday between the hours of 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. to assist students with any questions through text, phone or e-mail.”

McCanless said that RGCA implemented a drive-up option last Tuesday for parents wanting to pick up homework packets and educational materials, and is continuing to monitor the situation regarding plans for the remainder of the school year.

“We are, of course, willing to help our RGCA families with whatever needs they might have during this time,” said McCanless.

Lockwood R-I has begun providing meals to via curbside service from the high school daily from 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. Enrichment packets are also being made available so educational instruction can continue in some form.

“We are sending home enrichment packets to students that can be picked up Friday during the lunch pick-up time or students can access the packets online, via their Google Classroom accounts,” said Lockwood Supt. Clay Lasater.

Plans for continuing education for Greenfield R-IV and Everton R-III students were still in development at presstime.

“We are investigating what the best way to serve our students is going forward, as the situation is ever-changing,” said Everton R-III Supt. Mike Wallace.

Greenfield Supt. Chris Kell said that work packets should be available for students to pick-up beginning this week.

Starting March 19, breakfasts and lunches are being provided by Greenfield schools from 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. daily, with curbside pick-up from the elementary school circle drive. Lunches are similar to those provided on field trips or during summer school, with milk and breakfast food included.

The Life360 organization’s food assistance program is continuing in Everton, with pick-up times being announced on the district’s Facebook page.

In Miller, cafeteria staff have begun preparing hot meals on some days, starting last Thursday, when staff came together to hand out or deliver 121 meals.

“I appreciate how quickly the Miller R-II School District Director of Food Service Lanette Kleeman has been able to put together a plan to provide meals,” said R-II Supt. Dustin Storm.

Storm also said that teachers have been assembling packets full of enrichment activities for students to utilize during the dismissal of classes.

“Our amazing staff put together enrichment activities for our students and information in regards to the enrichment packets were distributed [last] Wednesday,” said Storm. We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we navigate through these uncertain times.”

The Walnut Grove R-V school is not yet providing meal service, but Supt. Adam Willard said that the district is prepared to do so if needed for students and the community. Willard said that school staff is working on providing learning-at-home activities through both homework packets and online platforms, such as Google Classroom. Most teachers had plans in place by the end of the day, March 18.

Elementary students in the Ash Grove R-IV district, which has schools at Ash Grove and Bois D’Arc, have been provided with at-home packets, and students in grades 7-12 have been provided with either printed or online instruction to use in conjunction with district-issued Chromebooks. Meals service is being provided for all students.

“We are using our buses as food trucks to deliver breakfast, lunch, Life360 snacks and Care2Learn food backpacks to our students,” said Aaron Gerla, Ash Grove superintendent.

Gerla said food can also be picked up in a drive-up/to-go model at the high school in Ash Grove from 7-9:00 a.m. weekdays classes resume.

The response of the Avilla R-XIII district has been similar to the others, said Supt. Russ Cruzan.

“We’re doing pretty much the same as what everyone else is doing. We are in the process of gathering material to send home,” said Cruzan. “We are also providing grab and go lunches that also include breakfast for the next morning.”

The situation in which school systems have found themselves this spring is perhaps best summed up by Lockwood’s Lasater: “It’s a crazy time!”