COLUMBIA Mo. (KMIZ)
As an unconventional school year comes to an end, administrators and education experts are turning their focus to the upcoming school year.
Thursday marked the last day of school for Columbia Public Schools after a semester that heavily featured remote learning. Teachers, staff, students and their families participated in a drive-by parade outside of Smithton and Jefferson middle schools to celebrate.
"Since we haven't been able to do any of our school celebrations like we normally would, this is one way for us to just celebrate our kids, one last time before we send them off," said Kerri Graham, the Jefferson Middle School assistant principal.
Looking forward, officials say the pandemic could affect students and teachers beyond the summer.
"Traditionally, we've had some degree of a summer slump that a lot of students have experienced, it's only going to be exaggerated probably for a lot of students," said Brent Ghan, a spokesperson for the Missouri School Boards' Association.
Educators leaned on innovation to keep students focused on finishing the current semester but administrators say teachers can only do so much with remote learning.
"You know it's not the same as being in class but I think that, given what we had to deal with, we made up for it and we're able to get them what they needed to finish off and you know for our eighth graders I feel like they are in a position where they're ready to be going on to high school," said Chris Drury, the Smithton Middle School principal.
Both Drury and Ghan said it will be a challenge to get students on track in the fall but suggest there are steps that can be taken to help students.
"Any sort of educational activity that parents can provide over the summer will be very helpful," Gahn said.
"I think it's getting back into a routine," Drury said. "So a lot of our students, especially middle schoolers they're, they're creatures of routine so getting them back into the routines getting them back to being learners, getting them back in schedule."
The Columbia Public Schools Board of Education met Thursday morning to discuss other aspects of the upcoming school year.
CPS leaders heard a budget presentation for the 2020-2021 school year that included additional funding expected from the CARES Act.
The State Board of Education has also been discussing ways to deal with the challenges of COVID-19. Last week the board allowed the commissioner of education to grant waivers to school districts on the school start date, according to Ghan.
The state currently has a law in place that prevents schools from opening earlier that two weeks before Labor Day. Ghan said schools are going to be able to apply for a waiver from that law and he thinks the state will see a lot of applications, meaning some schools could open earlier in August.