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Jackson schools extend closure through May 1; end-of-year activities still under discussion

The Jackson R-2 School District announced on April 7 that schools in the district will remain closed through May 1.

The schools was previously scheduled to reopen April 15, the day after the district’s spring break was scheduled. Link has said previously that students will no have to complete assignments during spring break, scheduled for April 9-14.

In a letter sent to district families, Superintendent John Link said the schools must remain closed to stay in compliance with Governor Mike Parson’s stay-at-home order and to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Link added that the district’s leadership team will continue to evaluate the situation weekly, but hopes students will be able to return to the schools on Monday, May 4.

During the extended closures, the district will continue distance learning and will distribute food to students. Playgrounds will remain closed to be in accordance with social distancing guidelines.

In the letter, Link thanked district families for their extreme patience during this unprecedented time, and encouraged them to reach out if there is any way the district could help.

“While we understand the hardship this places on our families, we are truly all in this together,” Link said. “We will work to provide fun and engaging activities for our students while they are away and look forward to being back together as soon as possible.”

There
are still many questions for students
regarding how the end of this school year will go — including
graduation, spring sports and other activities. Link said in a video address last week to the Jackson R-2 Family
that he hopes to get students those answers soon.

“I do believe
being hopeful is positive,” Link said. “I really would love to see us
somehow get back sometime before the end of the school year for some
closure. I think having closure for this year will help with some of the
unanswered questions like spring sports.”

“What a horrible time
for our seniors, who put in the time and the work to get to their senior
season and now that’s in jeopardy,” he added.

Link added that it
isn’t just sports that are affected, but other clubs and musical
concerts. As of right now, preparations are still being made to have the
pop concert.

Prom, which was scheduled for May 2, has been postponed but not yet rescheduled.

Link said they will have a plan in place in the
next few weeks to let people know about graduation, but that seniors
deserved that closure to their high school experience.

“It’s
something that every kid has to be able to do,” Link said. “You got to
be able to put on your cap and gown, get your diploma and get your
picture taken.”

In addition, the district still plans on doing
senior handprints at the high school, but doesn’t yet know more details
on how that will be done.

“There are a lot of important
conversations yet to be had,” Director of Communications Merideth Pobst said. “But unfortunately, no one
knows an answer to some of these. We are planning as proactively as we
can, but it’s such a unique situation”

Link said another factor
that has not yet been ironed out is how grading will be handled during
this time. “One of the things that we want to make sure is that this
event does not hurt someone’s grade, but we want to give people the
opportunity to make their grades better,” he said.

Link added
that it’s also important to give students the opportunity to continue
learning so they aren’t behind when they start next year’s classes. For
instance, students currently in Algebra I need to be prepared for
Geometry next year.

For elementary students, Link mentioned that
they are doing a great job staying connected to their teachers and
administrators. “It’s so neat to see the interaction between our
teachers and the students at home,” he said.

Pobst added that the
majority of kids are embracing the distance learning during this
unusual time. “I know my kids are doing it and they’re doing work every
day,” she said. “I’m thankful for it as a parent.”

During the
closure, the district has continued to serve meals to students through
pickup services at the elementary schools and the middle school. During
the week of March 23, almost 16,000 meals were given out. Last week,
over 8,000 more meals were given out.

Starting this, the
meal pickup will go to one day a week on Mondays while the schools are
closed. The food bags will contain enough meals for seven days. Around
21,500 meals were sent home on Monday, April 6.

Every Monday from
10 a.m. to noon, families can pick up food bags at East, Millersville,
North, Orchard, South, West Lane and Jackson Middle School. Gordonville
students are directed to pick up food at South Elementary, and junior
high and high schools students can pick up meals at any of the above
schools.

Link said the switch from two days of meal pickup to one
a week was to make it easier and safer for staff members. In addition,
Pobst said the district is delivering meals to Power Pack families.

“Our
Power Pack families get food in addition to the regular pickup because a
lot of those students may not have transportation to get there,” Pobst
said. “We are just making sure that they have what they need.”

Pobst
added that the foundation is currently taking donations to help cover
the costs of these meals. During the first week of meal pickups, it cost
the district around $24,000.

“We are living out history every
day, and someday your kids are going to read about this,” Link said in
his address. “And they are going to read about how we did and how we
came along and how we sacrificed for each other.”

A version of this article appeared in the April 8 edition of the CBJ under the headline, “R-2 end-of-year activities still under discussion.” The article online has been updated due to the closure extension.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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