Claire Colby

Missouri News Network

Gov. Mike Parson ordered all Missouri public and charter schools to remain closed through the remainder of the academic year.

Nutrition services and child care services will remain open, and schools should continue remote learning for their students until the end date previously set on their academic calendars, Parson said in a news conference Thursday.

The news comes as the Department of Health and Human Services reported 3,539 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 77 deaths from the virus on Thursday. The number of deaths represents a steep increase from the 58 reported Wednesday. State data shows that all but seven of those Missourians were age 60 or older.

Melissa Randol, executive director of the Missouri School Boards’ Association, called the move “a necessary step to protect the health and safety of our students, teachers, staff and communities.”

Randol added that “even though traditional classes will not resume this school year, education of our students will continue for the remainder of the year. The buildings may be closed, but quality education continues.”

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education commissioner Margie Vandever thanked teachers and families for adapting.

“We cannot applaud these educators enough, as well as our families at home, for stepping up to the plate to make learning a possibility amid this new normal,” Vandever said in Thursday’s news conference.

After the governor’s announcement, which pertained to public schools, the Diocese of Jefferson City announced that Catholic schools in its jurisdiction will also rely on distance learning through the end of the school year.

Driving and voting

During the news conference,  Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna said that traffic volume has decreased by about 40% during the statewide stay-at-home order. McKenna also said that speeding and distracted driving have been on the rise.

“This is not the time to disregard the rules of the road,” McKenna said. “In fact, highway safety is more important now than ever in these trying times. During the coronavirus pandemic, the emergency room is the last place you want to find yourself.”

Parson also said Thursday that he would not consider altering the state’s voting system in any way in response to the pandemic.

“I’m not interested making any drastic changes, nor should we make drastic changes out of fear,” he said.

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