Empty parking spaces line the front of the Houston Schools building last Thursday afternoon, a few hours after Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said the school year was over due to the COVID-19 situation.

Texas County’s 3,900 school children will not return to classrooms for the rest of the year, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced Thursday afternoon.

Parson closed public and charter schools down for the remainder of the school year as the number of positive cases of COVID-19 and deaths continues to escalate. By Tuesday, there were 4,686 confirmed cases and 133 fatalities reported in the state.

Education remotely will continue until the planned last day of school. Undecided is the status of summer school. At Houston, it was set to begin June 1.

Food distribution to children at Houston will continue from Houston elementary school. That occurred Tuesday and next week is set from 10 a.m. until noon Monday, April 20. Educators across the county are continuing the process of learning through online assignments and packets distributed to parents.

Parson promised seniors that some type of graduation would eventually be held to recognize their accomplishments.

“We are ordering all Missouri public and charter schools to remain closed through the remainder of the academic year with the exceptions of nutrition services and child care that are outlined in our recent health order,” Parson said.

He ordered Missourians to begin staying at home April 6.

The school closure order won praise from state school groups.

The Missouri School Boards’ Association, for example, called it a “necessary step to protect the health and safety of our students, teachers, staff and communities.”

“Even though traditional classes will not resume this school year, education of our students will continue for the remainder of the year,” Executive Director Melissa Randol said.

 Parson said his granddaughter was among those set to graduate from high school.

“For you seniors out there, I understand how disappointing that can be not to have a graduation ceremony,” Parson said. “I know you’ve worked hard for 12 years.”

Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven acknowledged that the decision raises multiple questions, including how districts will handle summer school, graduation ceremonies and the need for internet services in rural areas.

“Please know our department is working quickly to address these and other questions,” Vandeven said.

The Missouri State High School Activities Association canceled the spring athletics season on Thursday.

“This decision is very difficult for all involved especially given the impact it will have on our students, parents, coaches, teachers and administrators throughout the state,” MSHSAA Executive Director Dr. Kerwin Urhahn said in a release. “We thank all of the participants, the coaches/directors/advisors, the administrations, the parents and everyone else who has dedicated tremendous amounts of time, passion and effort into these events.

“To our senior participants, we thank you for everything you have done for your schools and communities and wish you the very best in your bright futures. While this is a difficult ending, the lessons you’ve learned and friendships you’ve made through high school activities will last a lifetime.”

At Houston, two activities were unveiled Friday to recognize athletics and seniors. On utility poles downtown, banners were erected that highlight senior players. That evening, Houston joined the country in the  “Be The Light Campaign,” which recognizes the efforts of the class of 2020, whose senior year was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. Locally, the football, softball, tennis and baseball lights will be turned on for 20 minutes at 8:20 p.m. Fridays — or 20:20 in military time.



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