JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Gov. Mike Parson on Thursday said he is ordering that all public and charter schools remain closed through the end of the school year.
Parson made the announcement during his daily COVID-19 briefing streamed on Facebook. He said despite the closure order, schools should continue their activities remotely through the normal end of their year.
Margie Vandeven, state commissioner of education, said schools should continue to provide all the services they normally would, including meals for students and education through alternative methods.
Watch a replay of the governor's new conference in the media player below.
Vandeven said the COVID-19 pandemic has brought "unprecedented challenges."
"The recommendation made to Gov. Parson today was not made lightly," Vandeven said during the news conference. "This decision was made to continue protecting the health and safety of our students and school staff members."
Every public and charter school in Missouri voluntarily closed its doors last month weeks before a statewide stay-at-home order was enacted.
After Parson announced the order, the Diocese of Jefferson City said all Catholic schools in the diocese would remain closed for the year, as well.
Vandeven asked schools to continue to be "creative, innovative and persistent" in finding ways to serve students and families. She acknowledged state officials don't have answers to all educators' questions, including those about how to proceed with summer school and how to get broadband access in some areas.
Vandeven said state officials are working to get those answers.
Parson apologized to high school seniors because of the typical senior year experiences they will miss.
"We will work with [the education department], we will work with superintendents across the state, to make sure you get the opportunity to walk down that aisle and receive that diploma, at some point," Parson said.
Columbia Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said the district anticipated such an extended closure.
"Our revised alternative learning plan that we instituted this week took this possibility into consideration," Baumstark said. "We're positioned with our revised plan for learning to continue remotely through the end of the year."
The Jefferson City School District said in a letter to parents that the news was "tough to hear."
"In the coming days, JC Schools will continue to assess our methods for reaching and teaching our students outside of the classroom," the district said in the letter. "Staff members will continue collecting feedback from students and families on a regular basis to ensure we are adapting to meet your needs."
The district expects to begin summer school on June 1, according to the letter.
During the news conference, Parson also said speeding is increasing despite a statewide stay-at-home order and a drop in traffic.
Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna cited statistics for several cities, saying traffic was down 41 percent in St. Louis, 46 percent in Branson and 33 percent in rural Missouri.
The briefing took place as positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise and more Missourians apply for unemployment.
As of Thursday, the state health department confirmed there are 3,539 cases of novel coronavirus around Missouri. The health department website said at least 77 people in the state have died related to coronavirus.
More than 90,000 state residents sent in unemployment claims in the first week of April. The state labor department website shows nearly 250,000 Missourians have made unemployment claims since the coronavirus pandemic started.