In-person classes remain goal to prevent further learning gaps

Missouri Commissioner of Education says school closings were necessary, but that remote learning created gaps requiring more intervention for students in the fall.

Reopening schools is key to both the economy and the health of Missourians, Margie Vandeven, director of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said.

Vandeven says closing schools was necessary in mid-March to help fight the coronavirus but says there are several “serious consequences” that can come from students not attending school in person, reports Northwest MoInfo.

“We know that schools provide kids much-needed social interaction and development,” Vandeven said. “Many have expressed concern about the adverse effect of behavior and mental health on our children that they may have experienced.”

Vandeven further stated the importance of school openings, noting openings as an important part of Missouri’s economic recovery.

A task force is working to develop tools to help schools identify gaps in student learning, both academically and in social emotional development, Northwest MoInfo reports. Once identified, Vandeven says targeted supports and interventions can be provided to get students up to speed.

Even with a planned return to classrooms in the fall, the state has assured the classroom setting will look much different than in the past.

Changes families and educators can expect are new social distancing requirements. The state is setting guidelines but the exact procedures are expected to be set at the local level.

Most parents and educators want to get back to the classroom in August, Vandeven said.

Other changes include schools encouraging employees and students to stay home any time they feel sick. For students this includes getting rid of incentives for perfect attendance, she said. Attendance will also be waived as an accountability measure for school districts in the coming school year.

Districts will also stress to educators and students the importance of hygiene, social distancing and, where applicable, wearing masks, Vandeven said.

Vandeven said the pandemic has highlighted the problem of the digital divide, in which rural and low-income students have less access to high-speed internet, KMIZ 17 news reports. A task force has also been formed to address that problem, she said.