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story.lead_photo.caption A school bus departs Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019, from Lewis and Clark Middle School in Jefferson City. Photo by Claire Hassler, News Tribune
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Missouri's public and charter schools are closed for the rest of the academic year, Gov. Mike Parson announced Thursday, leaving schools to extend their remote learning plans and cancel all extracurricular activities.

The Diocese of Jefferson City also announced its schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year, including Helias Catholic High School and Immaculate Conception, St. Joseph Cathedral and St. Peter elementary schools in Jefferson City.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, along with several school superintendents from across the state, recommended to Parson that he close schools for the remainder of the school year to protect the health and safety of students and staff, according to DESE.

Schools should continue remote learning until the end date set on their academic calendars.

The Missouri State High School Activities Association canceled all remaining post-season events for the remainder of the school year, including sports, music activities, scholar bowl, speech and debate, and theater.

All Cole County public schools had planned to reopen May 4, including the Jefferson City School District, Blair Oaks R-2 School District, Cole R-1 School District in Russellville and Cole R-5 School District in Eugene.

The Jefferson City School District will continue providing instruction and meal services through the methods currently being used for the remainder of the semester, which ends May 28. More information on instruction and meal services can be found on the JC Schools COVID-19 webpage.

The district will continue to assess these methods, according to a letter from JC Schools that sent to staff and families in the district. Staff members will continue collecting feedback from students and families regularly to ensure they are meeting the families' needs.

JC Schools sent a survey to senior students and parents to receive their thoughts on prom and graduation being rescheduled or providing alternative remote options. District leaders will create a plan in the coming weeks to address these events as well as other events, Communications Director Ryan Burns said.

"This is incredibly tough news to hear, as we were all hopeful we would have an opportunity to return to school before the end of the year," according to the letter from JC Schools officials. "We recognize that the current situation presents many challenges for educators, students, parents and families. No matter how difficult and unprecedented these current circumstances are, we want you to know that we are here for you. We are committed to our students, and we will remain committed to helping them be successful through the rest of this closure.

JC Schools is planning for summer school to begin June 1 as scheduled. District leaders will continue to monitor the situation and communicate information as decisions are made.

Blair Oaks district staff will continue to provide online instruction and deliver meals to students for the remainder of the semester, which ends May 15.

"We're in unprecedented times, and first and foremost, the most important thing to consider is to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our students and staff," Superintendent Jim Jones said. "I think, under the circumstances that we're in, this is in the best interest."

Jones said they will discuss plans for graduation, prom and other events.

"There's a lot of things that students are really looking forward to that they missed," he said. "We want to make sure that we think about all the things that are going through the minds of young people in this time, and we're going to do our best to meet those needs and celebrate those successes."

Blair Oaks and JC Schools staff will create plans for students to receive their supplies that are at school and for teachers to close down classrooms.

The Diocese of Jefferson City decided to close schools for the remainder of the semester in light of Parson's announcement, according to a news release from the diocese. They had planned for schools to reopen May 1. Each school will continue to provide remote learning until May 15.

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