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Bolivar District Adapts As Schools Close For The Rest Of The Academic Year

Bolivar Schools

Schools in Missouri are closed for the rest of the school year. But that doesn’t mean that learning and connecting with students has stopped.

In Bolivar, school superintendent, Tony Berry, said they’re working hard to reach out to every student, whether by email or by phone.

"We have charged all of our teachers to make as much contact--and the most important is the relationship that you continue to have with the child and making sure that somehow, someway you're connecting with them and getting the information that they need to the child," said Berry.

They’re providing online learning through Canvas, Odyssey Wear and Launch, and they’re offering hard copies of learning material to families. Berry encourages parents to make sure their kids are reading and staying physically active.

He said they’re checking up on the mental health of students and staff during this time of high anxiety. And the district is working to meet the nutritional needs of students so that learning can continue.

Teachers board school buses each weekday morning to take breakfast and lunch to families that request food at their homes. The first day, the district served 990 kids with around 1800 meals. Last week, they reached a peak of 3000 meals served to 1500 children.

Berry supports Governor Mike Parson’s decision to close Missouri schools for the rest of the school year, but he’s disappointed for the students—especially seniors.

"It's really just a sad situation because, and my heart breaks, especially for our seniors.  All of a sudden their school's just--they're done.  One day you're in school, the next day it's over," he said.  "And, so, they have a lot of memories that they're not going to be able to capture with their friends and with their teachers."

They’re committed to having some sort of graduation for the seniors even though Berry said they're not sure what that will look like. And he wants to be able to honor teachers who are retiring—some who have been with the district for many years.

"You don't get into teaching because of a whim," he said.  "It is a calling, and if you're able to stay with this for 25, 30 years, it is a higher calling.  And, what they have done for our school district, what they've done for kids, can't be understated."

If there’s any good that’s come out of this, Berry said, it’s that the importance of each role in the school district is being highlighted. According to Berry, every position, from teachers to bus drivers to custodial and maintenance workers, is vital.

"Everyone is pitching in, all work segments, understanding that, 'hey.  I am an educator.  I might not be teaching you in the classroom, but I'm an educator,'" said Berry.

He’s not sure yet what summer school will look like, but he said they’ll have to be able to offer it in some way.

He doesn’t want to have to do a virtual summer school because he wants to be able to connect with the kids, but that remains an option.

And the district still has to figure out how to get personal belongings back to the students. When the kids left their classrooms in March, they didn’t know they wouldn’t be going back.