The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, also known as DESE, has made the decision to close all Missouri Schools for the Severely Disabled. The closure begins on Wednesday, March 18.
Missouri is the only state that has a separate school system for individuals, ages 5 to 21, with severe physical and cognitive disabilities. DESE operates the 34 schools located throughout Missouri, which means that the state made the final decision on whether or not to close the schools.
Mallory McGowin, the DESE communications manager, said that it came down to the safety of their students.
“Some of those students at those locations have, maybe, a higher rate of underlying health conditions,” McGowin said. “[So,] we went ahead and made the decision to close, as we focus on the health and safety of those students and staff members.”
According to the DESE website, the tentative plan is to resume school on April 6 and revise the schools’ original spring break plans – now having students attend class on April 8,9 and 10, but McGowin acknowledged that these plans are likely to change.
“While the closures for now might be a few weeks,” McGowin said. “I think we all are aware that some of those closures may have to be extended, and so we obviously want to do everything we can for our state operated schools.”
McGowin said that due to the extra complication of the student’s disabilities and individual needs, they are still working to figure out how best to serve their students during the closure. Though, she added, this is the case for all 538 of the 555 Missouri schools currently closed due to COVID-19 related concerns.
McGowin also said that during the closure, employees of the Missouri Schools for the Severely Disabled will continue to be paid.
For up-to-date information on school closures, visit DESE’s website at https://dese.mo.gov/communications/coronavirus-covid-19-information.