KINGDOM CITY — Late Tuesday, North Callaway R-1 announced plans to close all schools and the T-Bird Learning Center beginning today due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like Callaway County's other three public school districts, North Callaway will remain closed until at least April 3; district administrators will reassess the situation and decide whether to resume classes as that date nears. Students will receive take-home work, and the district plans to provide breakfasts and lunches for students.
"District officials are aware that this emergency closure will have a significant impact on our families," Superintendent Nicky Kemp said in a letter to parents and guardians. "Please reach out to us if there is a way we can be of assistance."
During the closure, all school activities (including athletic and extracurricular events) will be canceled. Additionally, building use agreements between the district and other groups will be void during the closure.
Both teachers and non-certified staff will be paid during the closure.
Kemp said the district has an instructional plan in place, which will go into effect within a week of the school's closure. Earlier this week, parents were surveyed about access to the internet and internet-connected devices and whether they'd prefer to be sent printed packets or online resources.
"We had 869 responses, which is amazing consider that's about the number of families we have," Kemp said.
Around 90 percent of families said they had access to the internet and devices, but only 60 percent of families wanted to use online resources, with 40 percent preferring paper-and-pencil.
At the moment, students will be encouraged but not mandated to complete take-home work. High school students currently taking courses for college credit are the exception and will be "more than encouraged" to continue course work, Kemp said.
The survey also asked about families' concerns and whether they needed food resources for their children.
Kemp said the district is applying to the same program they use to provide breakfasts and lunches over the summer and expects to be accepted. (If not, there are other resources the district can draw on, she added.)
North Callaway plans to begin serving free breakfasts and lunches Monday. The program will be open to all children in the North Callaway community, regardless of income level or enrollment at the district. The meals will be available for pick-up at a central location to be announced.
Kemp said a few families expressed concerns about their ability to pick up meals, and the district is working on plans to deliver meals to those families.
"We've had several churches say they'll help however they can, and our bus drivers said they'd be glad to go make deliveries," she said.
Other parental concerns aren't so easily answered. Local school districts are still looking to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for guidance on whether they'll have to make up these missed days and whether graduation will be affected.
"We're watching and figuring out what will be the next move," Kemp said.
Kingdom Christian Academy, a small private school located in Fulton, also announced a temporary closure Tuesday. The closure began Wednesday and will continue until at least April 6.
Missouri School for the Deaf also closed Wednesday at 1 p.m., according to an MSD Facebook post. Students have been sent home. Officials plan to keep the school closed at least through the end of spring break, slated for next week.
"Should MSD decide not to resume classes Monday, March 30, due to the health emergency, all parents, employees, and the community will be informed," the post added.
As of Wednesday morning, no cases of COVID-19 had been announced in Callaway County, though cases have been detected in both Boone and Cole counties.
Many of Callaway County's schools have assigned take-home work during the closure. Though several districts have mentioned making hard copies available for families without internet access, lack of access does preclude families from taking advantage of a wealth of online resources.
In response, internet provider Spectrum has offered 60 days of free access to broadband and Wi-Fi for families who do not already have a Spectrum subscription, the company recently announced. Installation fees will be waived for new households. Households qualify if they include at least one college or K-12 student. No data caps apply to the access, according to Spectrum's parent company Charter.
Additionally, the company's Wi-Fi hotspots will be opened for public use.
Charter's press release on the program did not specify what would happen at the end of those 60 free days.
To learn more, call 844-488-8395.