Governor Mike Parson visited the state’s largest school district to meet with administrators across southwest Missouri about the impact of COVID-19 and the challenges of reopening schools for the 2020-2021 school year.
Parson met with administrators for close to an hour before a very brief question and answer session with reporters, where the Governor noted good discussion in the meeting but also challenges ahead for districts and teachers, especially in the area of low-income students.
“When you start talking the nutrition side of it, where they’re going to get fed,” Parson said, “the medical side where a school nurse might be the only person they see if they do have problems, and let’s be honest, teachers are challenged to do many multiple things at any time…but sometimes they have to be a parent as well as teacher. We need to be thinking about that.”
When the governor was asked about some kind of statewide instructions when it comes to reopening schools, Parson noted the significant differences in needs between the state’s districts.
“St. Louis school districts, Kansas City is much different than they are in Neosho and Blair Oaks School district in the middle of Missouri, all of them has challenges,” Gov. Parson said. “I’m confident in the administrators around the state, I’m confident in the school boards.”
Parson noted the biggest area of growth in cases of COVID are younger Missourians, with the biggest age group being those between 20 and 30-years-old.
“We’ve seen numbers grow in that 20 to 30 age bracket…and most of those kids feel like they’re bulletproof,” Parson said. “And frankly, they’re not getting real sick, but they sure are spreading the virus.”
Springfield School District Superintendent John Jungmann told reporters that the meeting with the Governor was positive and that the Governor’s goal was to listen to the needs of the districts.
“We’ve had some state budget cuts when it comes to education and we’re going to need every resource we can get our hands on,” Jungmann said. “We reiterated the need for support of education financially at the state and federal level.”
Jungmann noted they are working with the state to get federal funding to help offset losses due to the COVID-19 related economic downturn.
Jungmann also noted the governor expressed his support of the district and school board’s plan for the reopening of the district.
When asked about the parents who protested demanding the district return to an in-person five day schedule, Jungmann acknowledged the district realizing the impact the situation is having on parents.
“When we put out a plan, we know there’s going to be pushback,” Jungmann said. “This is a disruptive force for parents and families and businesses across this community. No one takes that for granted. We expect that conversation. We want our parents to tell us about those challenges.”
Jungmann said they want to work with community partners to find solutions.
“We can’t solve every problem,” Jungmann said. “But we can work with our community partners and our community to try and come up with other options.”