All of the BH-FP's coverage of the new coronavirus is being provided for free to our readers. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing at BolivarMoNews.com/subscribe.
Five Polk County School districts have announced plans to remain closed through Friday, April 24, and one will remain closed through at least Friday, April 10, over concerns with the continued spread of COVID-19.
Students in Bolivar, Fair Play, Halfway, Humansville and Marion C. Early school districts will remain out of the classroom for nearly another month, while Pleasant Hope students will be out at least through Friday, April 10.
“The board opted to look at this weekly, rather than close for a long period of time all at once,” Pleasant Hope superintendent Kelly Lowe said in a district message.
In a letter posted to his district’s website, Halfway superintendent Lance Roweton said his decision to remain closed had been made in conjunction with several area districts.
“The ongoing impact of COVID-19 in our region requires school districts to make decisions in the best interest of public health,” Roweton said. “In consultation with the Polk County Health Department, this joint decision to extend the wellness break will continue to ensure a safe learning environment for our staff and students alike.”
All districts had previously announced plans to close until late March or early April over concerns with the spread of COVID-19.
State orders later shuttered all Missouri schools through Monday, April 6.
According to a social media post, Bolivar will remain closed through at least Friday, April 24. The decision was made “to protect our students, staff, and community,” the post stated.
The district also announced it will continue its meal deliveries and Chromebook support through the extended closure.
According to a district post, it fed 1,359 students on Friday, March 27, up from 983 on Monday, March 23, the first day food was delivered.
For additional information, visit bolivarschools.org/c_o_v_i_d-19.
According to a post, students will continue lessons from home through April 24. The district will also continue food distribution, both through pickup and delivery.
Superintendent Renee Sagaser told the BH-FP the district is able to feed students through a Department of Elementary and Secondary Education program.
Sagaser said the district serves about 330 meals daily, providing two days of breakfast and lunch for each student. Meals are delivered every other day, meaning the district prepares about 1,320 to send out. Meal requests are trending up, she said.
Sagaser said one of the greatest problems she’s encountering now is managing state guidelines that limit groups to fewer than 10 people.
“It has been the greatest challenge to keep under 10 and to be ready by 1 p.m.,” she said. “We have a lot more staff members who are willing to help, but we have to turn away help to stay under 10.”
Sagaser said she plans to reach out to the community for help when her staff is worn out. Until then, she said, the district just needs the community’s patience and understanding.
“Please be patient with us,” she said. “Together we will get through this and have great stories to tell.”
According to a post from the district, Halfway will continue food distribution. Students with paper assignments can turn their work in at the 32 Whistle Stop gas station across from campus. Photos of assignments can also be texted, emailed or faxed to teachers.
Contact the district at 445-2215 for more information or to sign up for meals.
According to the district, Humansville Schools will continue to provide meals for anyone under 18 who is a resident of the Humansville School District.
Superintendent Tammy Erwin told the BH-FP the district uses the Seamless Summer Option state waiver program to deliver meals to students’ homes for free.
On Monday, March 30, district staff fed 163 students, up from 119 on March 19, the first day food was delivered.
Erwin said the district would shift from delivering food Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to Mondays and Thursdays starting Monday, April 6. Five days of meals will still be provided, she said.
“This is an extremely difficult situation for many families right now,” Erwin said, adding the decision was made to “assist with protecting individuals” and to “provide more safeguards for students, staff and the community.”
Learning will continue via packets, the district said. Humansville’s prom has also been postponed. A new date will be posted as soon as possible.
For more information or to be added to the meal deliveries, call 754-2535.
“Our community has been absolutely amazing during this time,” Erwin said. “We ask for their continued patience and understanding. This is a very uncertain time for everyone. Policies and rules look drastically different from how they looked just two weeks ago, and as new information is gathered, we will continue to evolve to address this pandemic. The most important thing is the safety, health and well-being of our students, staff and the community.”
Marion C. Early
MCE superintendent Josh Angel acknowledged that all families in the district have been impacted by the closure. According to a post, MCE will continue to provide meals to students, but, to limit staff exposure, the district has moved from deliveries twice weekly to once weekly.
Angel said the district served 120 students last Thursday. Requests are trending up, he said. The district is also able to provide the meals through the Seamless Summer Option state waiver program, he said.
All students who have signed up for breakfast and lunch will receive four days’ worth of food on Tuesdays.
Teachers will continue instruction and add additional enrichment activities, Angel said in the post.
“Our priority during this difficult time is the safety and well-being of our students and staff,” he said. “Please know that we miss each of our students and are anxiously awaiting the day we can welcome them back.”
Lowe said Pleasant Hope served 250 meals for the week Monday, March 30.
“The number is going up every single week,” he said.
Lowe said the district receives funding through the state to offer the meals and is also still receiving food from Life360 Ministries, adding “so our kids are literally getting meals from two sources each time we hand out.”
Lowe said district staff has been instructed not to come into school, and those in the central office are staggering shifts to limit exposure.
It’s important that Pleasant Hope takes the virus seriously, he said.
“The district doesn't need much help from the community other than following the guidelines set up by the health department,” he said. “This will get much worse if we do not do our own part.”