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September 15, 2020
COVID-19 Updates
Authority to Close Schools During Covid-19
We continue to receive questions from school leaders, school nurses and local public health officials, regarding which entity has the authority to close schools amid COVID-19, should the need arise. Local boards of education are empowered under state law to adjust their school calendar based upon local needs, which includes the closure of schools. This authority does not diminish as a result of the current pandemic. However, local public health authorities and the DHSS Director have authority that also overlaps with the local school board’s power to order the closure of schools during times of public health emergencies 

Webinar to Address Emerging Issues
DESE and DHSS hosted a webinar for school leaders, school nurses and LPHAs on September 9 to share clarifying information from the state level and address new questions from the field. Click here to view the recording.

Updated Reopening Guidance FAQ Document
DESE and DHSS also made several key updates to our School Reopening Guidance FAQ document on September 4. Those updates address the topics listed below. There’s now a reader-friendly icon in the document to draw your attention to these updates as they are made.

Updates to document:
  • Positive case reporting and communication between schools and local public health officials (see pg. 10)
  • Contact tracing protocol and quarantine/isolation directives (see pg. 10 and 13)
  • Educators and school personnel not currently “essential workers” in Missouri (see pg. 11)
    Crisis Text Line Campaign

    We know schools are facing unprecedented times in adapting to the evolving and complex changes created by the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, it is important to keep in mind the mental health impact the pandemic can have on students. Specifically, the need for physical distancing may increase a sense of social isolation and aloneness. Uncertainty about the pandemic may generate fear and worry about the future. Further, its effects on the ability to work and bring home paychecks will likely increase economic distress within families. Lack of consistency in routines or structure in the day may heighten feelings of being out of control and unable to cope. Combined, these factors will likely affect the severity of pre-existing anxiety and depression, lead to more alcohol and substance abuse, and increase domestic violence.

    Because of this, the Missouri Department of Mental Health is running a Crisis Text Line Campaign, encouraging youth and young adults to text if they are experiencing stress, a crisis or just need someone to talk to. Students can text “MOSAFE” to 741-741. As part of this campaign, a social media toolkit is available to access these materials online. The toolkit contains information that teachers, parents, caregivers and others can easily copy and paste to share the messaging with students virtually. There are also videos, radio messages and graphics in the toolkit that can easily be shared on websites and social media, as well as in virtual classes and emails to students.

    In addition, the National Association of School Psychologists has provided the following resources:

  • Comprehensive School Suicide Prevention in a Time of Distance Learning
  • Preparing for Infectious Disease Epidemics: Brief Tips for School Mental Health Professionals
    Patterns of Instruction Map
    DESE has published information detailing public school start dates and patterns of instruction being used (e.g., onsite, blend onsite/distanced, etc.) as the 2020-21 school year begins. The information will be updated as necessary and can be found on our COVID-19 webpage.

    When a district or charter school changes the pattern of instruction being used locally, the school leader should notify the DESE Area Supervisor of Instruction, indicating the pattern of instruction being shifted to and the date the change goes into effect. Area Supervisors have a brief set of questions for school leaders to answer; they will ask for the number of buildings with no students present, and the number of buildings fully distanced, fully virtual or those that may have temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Missouri Learning, Engagement and Preparation (MO LEAP)

    It is imperative that districts determine the status of each student’s skills and competencies as school reopens. Research tells us that the return to learning in fall 2020 should focus on grade-appropriate, standards-aligned instruction with supports for individual student’s learning gaps. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has developed MO LEAP Assessments and Blocks. Paid for with state Coronavirus Relief Funds, MO LEAP is free of charge to Missouri districts.

    Questions about MO LEAP? Call 573-751-3545, email or, or visit the MO LEAP page here.

    Alive & Well Communities Partnership
    DESE has partnered with Alive and Well Communities to provide additional guidance documents, training sessions and engagement strategies for educators regarding social-emotional learning and development. As schools begin the 2020-21 school year, administrators are welcoming back students and staff members who may have experienced unprecedented trauma due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Educators across the state of Missouri will have the opportunity to participate in several learning and engagement opportunities throughout this school year, with programs evolving to meet the emerging needs of educators as the pandemic continues. View a list of upcoming training dates and locations on DESE’s Trauma-Informed Schools webpage,, which will be updated regularly.

    September Training Events

    In a start to the school year that's been unlike any before, teachers, families and students are adjusting to change. For some, “the new normal” comes with a sense of loss. Learn how to support students through these feelings while leading them through a successful school year.

    Sign up here to attend live training.

    If you have questions regarding social-emotional learning or Alive and Well Communities, please contact Rene Yoesel, coordinator of School Counseling, at or 573-751-0857.
    New Children's Division Job Titles
    Beginning July 1, 2020, the Department of Social Services implemented a new job classification structure which consolidated job titles, job families and salary structures. As such, many community partners may see new job titles on Children's Division employees' state issued ID badges. Although a title change, these positions do the same work and have the same authorization as previous classifications. Examples of title changes that you may see are:                       
     Previous Classification Current Classification
    Children’s Service Worker I Associate Social Service Specialist
    Children’s Service Worker II-III Social Service Specialist
    Children’s Service Worker IV Senior Social Service Specialist

    If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to your local Children’s Division office. 
    Questions and Answers Regarding the Department's Final Title IX Rule
    The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has issued a new technical assistance document entitled Questions and Answers Regarding the Department’s Final Title IX Rule to support education institutions with meeting their obligations under the new Rule, which became effective on August 14, 2020. The content of the document is derived from questions posed to OCR’s Center for Outreach, Prevention, Education, and Nondiscrimination (OPEN Center).

    This resource is available on the U.S. Department’s new Title IX website which serves as an online hub for information and resources related to the Title IX Rule. Other resources released by the U.S. Department and made available on the Title IX website include official and unofficial versions of the Final Title IX Rule, information on how courts have opined on the new Rule, and other technical assistance documents, webinars, and entries from OCR’s Blog related to the Title IX Rule.

    If you have questions or require technical assistance concerning the Title IX Rule, please contact

    CARES Act Grants – Revised Timelines 
    DESE has multiple CARES Act funded grants open for Missouri local education agencies (LEAs). DESE was recently notified of an updated timeline for processing grants utilizing the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF). Two specific grants are impacted: COVID-19 Response Supply Reimbursement Grant and Missouri Student Connectivity Grant – Access (MSC-A).

    To learn more and get the appropriate contact information for questions, please see Administrative Memo FAS 20-010.

    Darrion Cockrell Named 2021 Missouri Teacher of the Year
    Congratulations to Darrion Cockrell - aka "Mr. DC" - for being named the 2021 Missouri Teacher of the Year! He is the state's 52nd Missouri Teacher of the Year and the second recipient from Lindbergh Schools in program history!

    Read the official news release here.
    Missouri Healthy Schools
    Please join DESE, in collaboration with EDPLUS, this Thursday, September 17 from 9:00-10:30 a.m. for the MOre Healthy Schools Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) Statewide Webinar, “Conversation to ACTION: Building Your System to Support Your Whole School Community.” District/school leaders will discover strategies for a whole school approach to wellness and learn how school districts across Missouri are using the WSCC framework to leverage current systems and resources to better integrate health and education.

    Registration is required at:

    Missouri Healthy Schools Resources and Real-Time Assistance  
    Times are challenging, and there are a lot of questions about how to best serve our students while keeping staff and students healthy and safe – whether at home or at a distance during COVID-19. Missouri Healthy Schools website provides a repository of resources, training and professional development opportunities, and access to real-time assistance from experts in several key areas related to safe school re-opening – including Nutrition Services, Physical Education, School Health Services, Employee Social and Emotional Well-Being, Asthma Care, School Facilities and Maintenance, and more.     
    Distance Learning Strategies
    Over 40 recognized and accomplished Missouri teachers, led by previous Missouri State Teachers of the Year, spent the summer designing 10 modules that feature strategies and resources to help fellow educators learn how to be more successful teaching in a distanced learning environment.

    This resource, called “Distance Learning Strategies: By Missouri Teachers, For Missouri Teachers,” is now available and can be accessed here. Educators can also learn more about the resource through this short video.
    Show Me Hope
    Show Me Hope is Missouri’s crisis counseling program (CCP) in response to a disaster or critical event. Counselors are based in local communities to teach coping and stress management skills to anyone dealing with the anxiety and uncertainty caused by the event. The CCP helps individuals and communities recover from natural and human-caused disasters through community outreach and access to resources including mental health services.
    PIO/MIA Recognition Day September 18
    The United States’ National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed across the nation on the third Friday of September each year. Many Americans take the time to remember those who were prisoners of war (POW) and those who are missing in action (MIA), as well as their families.

    Statewide Tornado Drill
    The National Weather Service scheduled Missouri's 2021 statewide tornado drill for Tuesday, March 2, at 10 a.m. In case of severe weather on the day of the drill, it will be moved to Thursday, March 4, at 10 a.m. This is an opportunity for Missourians to practice their sheltering plans and ensure readiness in case of a severe weather emergency while at home, work or school.

    Consider following your National Weather Service on social media for up-to-date information.

    School Age Community Grant
    The School Age Community (SAC) Grant for before and/or afterschool programs is now open for 2020-21. The application is due no later than Monday, September 21, 2020, at 3:00 p.m. You may download the grant application here.

    Virtual Content Meetings
    Sign up today for the 2020-21 Virtual Content Meetings, hosted by DESE content directors in Math, Social Studies, Science, ELA, Arts, ELD, Dyslexia, and Health/PE/School Wellness.

    New this year: a central location for all curriculum/assessment professional learning opportunities, across contents, housed on the DESE curriculum web page. Educators will have the opportunity to choose which professional learning they are interested in and register for that session without having to access a number of different content webpages. We also hope that this calendar format will help administrators with their planning for professional learning and the possible use of these learning opportunities during staff meetings and/or professional learning days. We encourage the use of these free, high-quality sessions tied to the Missouri Learning Standards. This calendar will be ever-evolving, so we encourage educators to check back for additional opportunities. Please share this new calendar format with your colleagues and administration.

    Administrative Memos
    Miss a recent Administrative Memo? You can view them all here
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