Ash Grove, Republic and Willard schools to close through April 3

In an effort to help slow the spread the COVID-19 virus, the Republic, Ash Grove and Willard school districts, along with nine other area districts, will be closed from Tuesday, March 17 through Friday, April 3. The 12 districts made a joint announcement about the closure through a collective press release on Monday, March 16.
The closures follow the announcement of a third confirmed case of COVID-19 in Greene County and a recommendation by Gov. Mike Parson that all events with an expected attendance of 50 people or more over the next eight weeks be postponed or canceled.
The press release also stated that the districts “recognize that this decision will have a wide-reaching impact on many people, so plans are being developed to support communities.” Included in these plans are meal services, childcare and “virtual and/or printed material-based learning opportunities.”
Regarding childcare, the collective press release stated that during the closure, the districts will have childcare, but it “will only be provided for designated healthcare providers and emergency/first responders.”
No extracurricular school activities will take place during the closure.
“Closure impacts all extra- and co-curricular activities, including athletic competitions, practices and after-school programs and events,” the press release stated.
The effect of the closure is somewhat mitigated for Willard and Republic students, as those districts were already closed for spring break through March 20; Ash Grove had Friday, March 13, off for spring break, but students were back in class for a makeup day on Monday, March 16.
In a press release for the Republic School District, Josey McPhail, director of communications, stated the decision to close the schools in Republic came after consultation with the Springfield Greene County Department of Health.
“This is a decision that was not taken lightly,” she stated. “However, we feel it is the best option at this point to do our part in supporting the healthcare system in ‘flattening the curve’ while also protecting the health of students and employees.”
McPhail also expanded on the three main points of the joint press release: meal services, childcare and learning opportunities.  
In regards to food services, McPhail said the district is “working with our Food Service department to determine what options we will be providing,” and told parents to look for more forthcoming information later this week.
Expanding on the collective press release’s statement on childcare, McPhail stated that while Stripes 360 would be closed through April 3, the district would be “partnering with area schools to create a childcare platform for these healthcare providers and emergency/first responders,” adding that more information would also be forthcoming later in the week.
Finally, McPhail stated the district would work to make sure that disruptions to student learning would be minimized.
“We understand that school cannot be replicated, but our district will be working on resources to support students in their learning while we are closed,” she stated.
McPhail added that this year’s graduating seniors are being kept in mind as the district navigates this situation, and ended by quoting another school superintendent.
“As was stated by a fellow superintendent in another state, ‘When this is all over, we won’t know if we overreacted and did too much,” she said. “However, we are certain that we will know if we did not do enough.’”
The Willard school district posted closure notice and the collective press release on the school website and their Facebook page on Monday, while advising more information would be coming later in the week.
The Ash Grove School District announced the closure on Monday via their high school and elementary school Facebook pages. In response to a media inquiry, Dr. Aaron Gerla, superintendent of schools, said the district is working to make the best decisions possible for keeping the students safe from the virus.
“Our school district is working in cooperation with the CDC, DESE and the Greene County Health Dept to make sure that we have all of the most up to date information to help us make the best decisions to keep people safe,” he said. “This is a very fluid situation that is changing daily, so the status of events is changing rapidly and will continue to do throughout the spring. We have posted ways that our community can be pro-active on our website as we continue to make the well-being of our students our top priority.”
Wanting to keep students fed during the time off, Ash Grove R-4 is offering meals to be picked up by students between 7-8 a.m. every morning until school resumes.

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Lawrence County Record

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