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Federal funding could help fix the “digital divide” in Missouri’s rural education


As school districts across Missouri were ordered by the governor to shut their doors for the rest of the year, education has looked different across the State.

Some school districts were able to go fully online and provide students with technology. Others in more rural areas had to do remote learning using packets because their families either couldn't afford or didn't have access to the internet and the needed technology.

The Commissioner of the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education Margie Vandeven said at the governor's briefing on Thursday the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the "digital divide" facing the state's education system.

"(DESE is) very concerned about the inequities for our students are exasperated during this time of separation," Vandeven said. "So we need to make sure that all of our students across the state have opportunities for success and access to those resources."

Watch a replay of the the news conference in the media player below.

DESE is getting ready to distribute $208 million from the CARES Act to school districts across the state. Vandeven said that money is flexible and is geared toward covid-19 related assistance.

She said one of the top prioties for the funding is addressing the need to technology in some districts across the state.

"I really think we are going to see some big shifts in the way education is provided throughout our state and throughout our nation," Vandeven said.

The funding may also go towards transportation, supplies and training teachers for remote learning.

Vandeven also said school districts across the state have served over 1.3 million meals to students. USDA has given Missouri over 117 million dollars to reimburse some of those meals.

Gov. Mike Parson also said Thursday that Missouri will be getting federal stimulus funding for housing resources and assistance.

With this funding, 15 of Missouri's largest cities and counties, including the St. Louis and Kansas City metro regions, will receive over $24 million in additional assistance, Parson said during his daily COVID-19 briefing in the Capitol.

Missouri will also receive $9.4 million to help unsheltered homeless, sheltered homeless or those at risk of homelessness.

Parson said he anticipates federal guidance on these funds in the next few weeks.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services announced Thursday that the state added 137 COVID-19 cases and 11 virus-related deaths since Wednesday.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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Matt Ragsdale

Matt Ragsdale is a broadcast and digital producer at ABC 17 News.


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