Dear MPS Family and Friends: Below is the letter Missouri superintendents received from Dr. Margie Vandeven, Commissioner of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. It is reassuring and uplifting to know our state leaders have the welfare and well-being of Missouri children at the forefront of their decision-making. Please continue to keep yourself and your family safe and keep learning! Better days are coming! Dr. Carol Maher
Missouri cancels statewide testing. Required hours for missed pandemic days addressed.
Thank you for your leadership during these unprecedented times. You continue to inspire me and those around you. DESE staff are working to assist you as you focus on the health and safety of your students and staff and the needs of your community. Many of you have reached out seeking guidance on what we should “do” throughout this time of school building closure. Here are my top three recommendations:
Do continue to focus on the health and well-being of your students. In times like these, our students, families and communities turn to you. There is no greater priority right now than to focus on their safety. We at DESE are doing all we can to remove barriers and to provide the flexibility necessary for you to do so. If you are in need of specific assistance or relief, please contact your area supervisor. They are in daily contact with us and are relaying your needs.
Do continue to provide educational opportunities for students. I continue to be amazed by how quickly so many of you have acclimated to this new way of doing business and the ways you are continuing to support your students. It is important to remember that even when school buildings are closed, learning can and will continue. Learning can take place in a variety of ways and isn’t limited to virtual opportunities. We encourage you to be innovative and do what works best for your students, staff and community.
While I was hoping to receive an update on an assessment waiver from the U.S. Department of Education this afternoon, the scheduled meeting was postponed. Current conditions do not allow us to wait any longer. There is a time and a place for required statewide testing; now is not the time. We will be canceling required statewide assessments for the remainder of the SY 2019-20 school year. There will be details that need to be worked out for graduating A+ seniors who may still need to take an assessment. Information on the federal assessment waiver should come soon and we will apply. We will share information and updates as soon as they become available.
Do continue to provide as much normalcy as possible. The National Association of School Psychologists recently shared that frightened children, who may feel in danger or are worried that their friends or loved-ones are at risk, will look to you on how to react. This often holds true for our staff as well. We can help children and our communities feel safe by establishing a sense of routine and security. That is why one of the first areas we addressed in our earlier guidance to you was school funding and attendance.
Local districts will not be required to make up SY 2019-20 calendar hours lost due to COVID-19 and missed calendar hours will not impact the calculation of average daily attendance. To streamline this process, DESE will soon send districts an online form to collect the necessary waiver information. We recognize the importance of ensuring that our schools are paid and that educational opportunities continue to be provided for our students throughout this time of social distancing.
Districts and charters should make attendance decisions based on the safety and well-being of their students and staff, without concern that the low attendance numbers will negatively impact payment. Further guidance regarding school finance issues will be included in a separate memo from the Division of Financial and Administrative services early next week.
As you are well aware, information continues to evolve by the hour. Thank you for your many questions and recommendations. We will continue communicating with you through a variety of methods and cataloguing all updates on our DESE-related COVID-19 webpage. Health-related information and guidance can be found on the Department of Health and Senior Services website.
Margie Vandeven, Ph.D.
Commissioner of Education
Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education