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DESE head announces new school funds, summer school

Posted on Wednesday, May 6, 2020 at 6:09 am

R-VI’s Chancellor: July graduation possible, late summer most likely for summer school

Federal dollars, $325 million, are heading toward Missouri schools, some of which will make to local districts.

That was the message delivered by Margie Vandeven, director of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education during Missouri Governor Mike Parson’s April 30 news conference.

R-VI faculty and students adhered to social distancing recommendations during the recent book and assignment turn in at CHS.

She said Missouri would receive $117 million from the USDA to reimburse its school districts for the free lunch and breakfasts supplied by the school districts to their students during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Vandeven also said the state was about to receive an additional $208 million from the Department of Education’s Federal Elementary and Secondary Education School Relief Fund. “These funds will allow school leaders to address remote teaching and learning challenges and other important educational needs resulting from COVID-19.”

She concluded her presentation by thanking Missouri’s education stakeholders. “Thank you to school leaders, educators, school supporters, parents, grandparents and guardians who worked to see our children take advantage of the educational opportunities during the past eight weeks.”

Steven Chancellor, superintendent of the Centralia R-VI School District, said he did not know how much the district would be receiving, but any amount would be welcome.

“I have not seen a figure yet,” Chancellor said. “But we have been tracking all expenses since March 15 in anticipation of this.”

The spending of such funds would be done in prudent manner, he said.

“Any money that comes in as part of that stimulus, we will treat as a one-time event. We will not use it to hire a new person or any other expenditure that would create a reoccurring expense.”

At a minimum, he said, the School Relief Fund money will be used to pay for the cleaning solutions and other custodial supplies the district had to purchase in anticipation of keeping the buildings virus-free. Beyond that, and expenses incurred producing and mailing the students’ home-study packets, the anticipated funds have not been earmarked for anything specific, he said.

Financially, he said, unless the state does not fund the education formula, the district should not finish the school year with a loss.

Vandeven also discussed summer school.

“Many people are wondering what summer school will look like,” she said. “The department has issued guidance that emphasized scheduling flexibility and establishing expectations for both remote and face-to-face summer learning opportunities.”

He and other educators are primarily figuring out how they will educate children when August arrives, Chancellor said. “But our thinking now is the best opportunity for summer school will be late summer… We are trying to figure out how many students we can have in one place.”

Regarding summer school, he said one puzzle is how many teachers the district would have to hire if the county health department still limits group sizes to 10.

“We could have some real space challenges, three of our buildings were designed under very different square-feet-per student recommendations. This could be the social-distancing version of Tetris.”

He also said the question on every class of 2020 parents’ mind, “What about graduation and prom,” is “definitely being discussed… None of those events have been cancelled. We should have an answer by the end of this week. Realistically, we’re looking at some time in July.”