The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education continues to receive many questions about COVID-19 and how it impacts student attendance, school closure, assessments, and virtual education opportunities. We are aware that local education agencies must consider a number of factors when making decisions in this current situation. Administrative Memo COM-20-001, issued from the Commissioner of Education to public school leaders at 3 p.m. on March 13, details DESE’s responses to the issues that play a part in decisions related to COVID-19, knowing that ultimately, the best interest of students is our guiding factor.
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Website and Hotline: DHSS’s COVID-19 webpage contains any and all COVID-19-related information for Missourians, and is updated frequently. DESE officials remain in close communication with colleagues at DHSS to stay informed about COVID-19 and the current situation in Missouri. DHSS has activated a statewide public hotline – 877-435-8411 – for citizens or providers needing guidance regarding COVID-19. It is operated by medical professionals and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Updated March 16, 2020 (7:40 a.m.)
- Missouri Educator Gateway Assessments (MEGA) Information: MEGA candidates can withdraw from or reschedule a test up to 24 hours ahead of the scheduled testing time. Candidates withdrawing will get a full refund. If a test center closes, candidates would be notified and provided with the opportunity to reschedule or withdraw with refund. View complete MEGA information and updates here.
- Capitol Tours/Visits & Other DNR/State Parks Events Cancelled: Out of caution, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced all events and programs hosted/sponsored by DNR and Missouri State Parks are postponed or canceled through April 30. This includes guided school group visits and tours at the Missouri State Capitol and other state park facilities. DNR has made this difficult decision in an effort to avoid large congregations of people in confined areas. Missouri State Parks visitor centers, campgrounds, and lodging will remain open as DNR closely monitors COVID-19 and its presence in our state.
- FFA Event Updates: The State FFA Convention scheduled for April 23 and 24 is being postponed. Ag Ed staff members are working on a contingency plan for the State Convention program, State Leadership Development, and State Career Development Events. Ag Ed leaders recommend local Ag Ed teachers reconsider holding all area and district FFA events involving significant numbers of students.
- Social Studies Events Cancelled: DESE’s Citizenship Luncheon on April 14 and the Holocaust Commemoration event on April 30 have been canceled.
- SkillsUSA Event Updates: DESE and SkillsUSA Missouri officials made the difficult decision to cancel the SkillsUSA 2020 State Office Candidate Professional Development Conference scheduled for Saturday, March 21. While a variety of factors influenced this decision, be assured that the health and safety of our students and stakeholders is always our primary concern. At this time (3/13/20), SkillsUSA Missouri’s State Leadership & Skills Conference is scheduled to take place as planned. If event plans change, CTSO conference attendees will be notified as quickly as possible.
- Power Up 2020 Cancelled: Missouri Assistive Technology’s 2020 Power Up Conference, scheduled for March 30 and 31 in Columbia, is canceled.
- MOCAP Virtual Education Resources: It is important to emphasize that schools may have options for alternate educational opportunities. Schools may wish to implement virtual learning through a new or expanded contract with a vendor. See more information and guidance here on the MOCAP website.
- TSA Conference Update: The Missouri University of Science and Technology has canceled all university-sponsored events involving more than 50 people scheduled to take place March 13 through April 30, 2020. This means that the Missouri TSA 2020 State Championships Conference, scheduled at Missouri S&T on March 29-31, will not take place as previously planned. As a result, Missouri TSA will move all our events to digital submission this year with some modification to events to allow for such submissions. Details pertaining to testing and other event project submissions will be emailed to Local Chapter Advisors and posted on the Missouri TSA Website (www.motsaweb.org). Please remain connected with Missouri TSA’s social media channels and TSA Local Chapter Advisors for more updates as they emerge.
- High School Equivalency (HISET) Testing Center Closings: A list of High School Equivalency (HiSET) testing center closings are posted on the HSE website. Closing updates will be made to the website as they become available.
- HOSA Conference Update: The Missouri University of Science and Technology has canceled all university-sponsored events involving more than 50 people scheduled to take place March 13 through April 30, 2020. This means that the Missouri HOSA 2020 State Leadership Conference, scheduled at Missouri S&T on March 23 and 24, will not take place as previously planned. Instead, Missouri HOSA will use a virtual platform to determine state winners. Details pertaining to testing and other event projects will be emailed to Local Chapter Advisors and posted on the Missouri HOSA website. Please remain connected with Missouri HOSA’s social media channels and HOSA Local Chapter Advisors for more updates as they emerge.
- CTSO Conference Update: CTSO participants are encouraged to reach out to their specific contact regarding any upcoming conferences or activities. DESE officials remain in close communication with colleagues at DHSS to stay informed about COVID-19 and the current situation in Missouri. If event plans change, CTSO conference attendees will be notified as quickly as possible.
- DECA State Conference Now Using Virtual Platform: Under the proclamation of a state of emergency in Kansas City, events scheduled in Kansas City with more than 1,000 attendees are canceled. That means DECA’s State Career Development Conference (SCDC) will not take place in Kansas City. Instead, DECA will use a virtual platform to determine our state winners. Details pertaining to testing and written event projects will be emailed to chapter advisors and posted on the Missouri DECA website. Please remain connected with DECA’s social media channels (and this webpage) for more updates as they emerge.
- FCCLA State Conference Postponed: In light of the issues and concerns surrounding COVID-19, DESE has made the decision to postpone the FCCLA 2020 state conference and all of its associated events. While a variety of factors influenced this decision, the health and safety of students and stakeholders was the primary concern. FCCLA staff members are working with Tan-Tar-A Conference Center and other entities that are critical to hosting a successful conference to identify possible dates for rescheduling the event. We apologize for the disruption this decision will cause to school schedules and travel plans. Please know that the decision was not made lightly, and that it was made with the best interest of FCCLA members in mind.
- DESE Response to School Closure/AMI Questions: The public attention surrounding COVID-19 has led to several questions about what will happen if a school must close for an extended period of time. While COVID-19 is the current focus, it is important to remember that this is not the first time that illness, natural disaster or other events have affected school operations. DESE has historically worked with districts when exceptional circumstances cause school closures. As with any situation where a possible closure can be anticipated, districts are encouraged to consider what alternative plans can be developed and implemented to support student learning in the absence of standard instructional practices. While the Alternative Methods of Instruction (AMI) statute does not take effect until the 2020-21 school year, the guidance DESE issued with the AMI application can assist schools in planning for both general and special education.
- School Closure Decision-Making: If a case of COVID-19 is confirmed in your community, we encourage local education agencies (LEAs) to work closely with local health officials and seek their guidance on the next steps for your school(s). In the event of a confirmed case, epidemiological investigators would work quickly to determine what individuals came into close contact with the infected person; the infected person and those who were determined to have close contact with that individual while considered contagious would be those asked to self-quarantine and monitor their health for any development of systems. It is important to keep in mind that a school closure may not be warranted in all circumstances when a student or staff member contracts COVID-19.
- CDC Issues Updated COVID-19 Guidance for Schools: Health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are taking steps to prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19 in the United States. Schools can play an important role in this effort. Through collaboration and coordination with local health departments, schools can take steps to disseminate information about the disease and its potential transmission within their school community. Information provided in the guidance at the link below should help schools understand how to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19 within their school communities and facilities. The guidance also aims to help schools react quickly should a case be identified. The guidance includes considerations to help administrators plan for the continuity of teaching and learning if there is community spread of COVID-19. Read the CDC guidance information here.
- CDC Handwashing Guidance: With concerns in the media and among our citizens gaining more attention, it is very important to stress that the most effective method for preventing the spread of the virus is simply using good hygiene, especially effective, thorough handwashing. Please take two minutes to watch this CDC video which answers important questions about handwashing and hand sanitizer.
- CDC Travel Guidance: In an effort to continue providing safe learning environments, and assist in the effort to slow the exposure to and/or the spread of COVID-19, LEAs may choose to follow the CDC Travel Guidance here for people returning from a country under a travel advisory, which currently includes China, Italy, South Korea, Iran, and Japan, and ask students/staff to stay home from school for 14 calendar days upon their return to the United States. Please note that the CDC’s list of travel advisories may change rapidly; follow the link above to stay informed about those advisory updates.
- COVID-19 & Food & Nutrition Services: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and DESE have received questions from Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) officials asking how their programs and operations could be impacted as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19). At this time, continue normal program operations. If a public health emergency happens in your community, such as an outbreak of COVID-19, USDA Foods currently in your local inventory can be used as an emergency feeding source for your community without prior approval or permission from DESE Food and Nutrition Services. Information about that decision-making can be reviewed on the USDA Foods During Disaster fact sheet here. Within 45 days of an emergency feeding, local FNS officials will submit to DESE FNS via email the total amount of products that need to be replaced. DESE FNS officials will then work with local SFAs to gather additional information needed, such as the disaster rate, the total number of persons receiving USDA Foods, the period those foods were issued, etc. The USDA Foods used will be replaced with another like product or, in some cases, credit entitlement for the value of the food used. The USDA Food Program Disaster Manual here provides FNS officials key information about this process. DESE encourages FNS officials to review this information as a precautionary measure, specifically: page 21 (School Food Authority Disaster Preparation information), page 32 (Procedures for the Replacement and Reporting of USDA Foods), and page 73 (Disaster preparation recommendations). See the full memo.
- Coding COVID-19-Related Absences: Any student absence related to COVID-19 would be coded/entered like any other student absence related to illness.
- COVID-19 Cyber Scams: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warns individuals to remain vigilant for scams related to COVID-19. Cyber actors may send emails with malicious attachments or links to fraudulent websites to trick victims into revealing sensitive information or donating to fraudulent charities or causes. Exercise caution in handling any email with a COVID-19-related subject line, attachment or hyperlink, and be wary of social media pleas, texts or calls related to COVID-19.