Southeast Missouri schools announce closures due to COVID-19

Monday, March 16, 2020 ~ Updated 10:11 AM

SIKESTON — In response to the ever-changing status of the COVID-19 outbreak, Southeast Missouri schools have canceled classes through next month.

On Monday morning, some school districts across the region, such as Ste. Genevieve and Farmington, had already made the decision to close their schools. By afternoon, over 100 schools in Southeast Missouri began announcing their dismissals through April 3.

“School leaders across Southeast Missouri have collectively made the decision to close schools for more than two weeks to help prevent the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),” said Kelly Superintendent Dr. Kevin Cogdill via a letter posted on the district’s website. “Area superintendents have been working closely with local and state health officials to monitor the latest developments regarding COVID-19 and have determined the best way to help protect our communities at this time is by closing schools.”

All school activities, including athletic and extracurricular practices and competitions, will be canceled during the time school is closed, Cogdill said. It is also important to note that all outside groups will not be allowed on campus, he said.

The Scott County R-4 School District will provide lunches to all school-aged students within the district beginning on Thursday at no charge to parents. Details of this process will be communication by the end of the day Wednesday, he said.

“The health of our students, their families and our staff members continue to be our highest priority,” Cogdill said. “We realize the important role schools play in the lives of our families, and are committed to finding ways to continue services that are essential to the health and nourishment of our students.”

Kelly Schools, East Prairie R-2, Kelso C-7 Elementary in New Hamburg and Jackson R-2 are among districts to close starting Tuesday.

Locally, New Madrid Count R-1 School District was among the first on Monday to announce its closing.

“There is absolutely no reason to panic, but COVID-19 has proven to be a serious threat to public health. This is therefore a necessary precautionary measure that is being taken by school districts throughout our region and country,” said Dr. Sam Duncan, R-1 superintendent in a post about 3:15 p.m. Monday via social media. “We will reassess as we go, but we will plan to resume April 6.”

All school activities including athletic and extracurricular practices and competitions will be canceled during the time school is closed, he said.

“We don’t want our kids going hungry, so we have been working on options with our food service vendor to feed students in their communities starting next week (details are still in the works),” Duncan said.

The district will not plan on trying to implement educational/online-instructional options officials know they have the “feeding” part right, he said. The district will assess learning options as they go, he said.

Bishop Edward Rice and Dr. Gene Aug, interim superintendent of Catholic schools, with the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, said in a news release Monday afternoon the schools would close beginning Wednesday.

“We are suspending the operation of Catholic schools (prekindergarten through 12th grades) in the Diocese beginning Wednesday,” Rice said in a news release. “Pending continuing updates and guidance from local and state government and health officials, we will update all of you regarding this closure on Friday, April 3. This suspension includes all athletic and extracurricular activities.

In the event that a school is currently closed for spring break, school officials will be at respective schools on March 23 for parents to pick up books and other items to continue their students’ educational programs, Rice said.

“We are asking our teachers to establish daily communications with their students and their families so our educational programs will be as effective as possible,” Rice said.

Other area schools that announced their closings beginning Wednesday included: Advance R-4, Bernie, Bell City R-2, Bloomfield R-14, Bunker R-3, Cape Girardeau Public Schools, Chaffee, Charleston R-1 Clearwater R-1, Delta R-5, Dexter R-11, East Carter, Fredericktown, Oak Ridge, Oran, Pemsicot County R-3, Perryville, Portageville, Richland, Scott County Central, Sikeston R-6 Schools and The Christian Academy in Sikeston.

“Portageville School District will be closed Wednesday through Friday and the following week for spring break,” the district announced Monday. “Schools will be open Tuesday for parents to send students. This will allow time for parents to make arrangements for child care.”

In the meantime, the district encouraged parents, staff and students to follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Stay home; avoid crowds; washing hands frequently; keep hands away from face; sneeze into elbow. If experiencing symptoms, call the doctor, and stay away from elderly and those with comprised immune systems.

The Gideon School District closed its doors at the end of the school day Tuesday and will remain closed through April 3. All school activities are also cancelled as well, according to a letter issued by Gideon Superintendent James Breece.

“We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and will be updating information on our Gideon School District 37 Facebook page as well as sending out all-calls to parents and guardians in the system,” Breece stated.

Risco R-2 Superintendent Amy Baker said the district will be closed from March 18 through March 27 and will move up the planned spring break to March 30 through April 3, keeping students out of the classroom an additional week.

“We will re-evaluate the situation at the end of the next week and give you updates as needed,” Baker wrote in a letter to parents and community members.

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