As school districts close or prepare to close to prevent the spread of COVID-19, parents are facing the situation of unexpectedly having children at home while also working.


One of them is Tara Arnett. She has a fifth-grader with special needs and a second-grader.


"I work full time," Arnett said by phone on Tuesday. "We are kind of in flux."


Her employer is working with her to allow her to work from home. Until then, she knows a daycare where her children can stay "that is going to be open until it can’t be."


The growing list of school closures now includes most districts in central Missouri and around the state. Some, however, are not closing.


Cole County R-1 in Russellville is remaining open.


"At this time, we believe that, education is important and our district is monitoring the situation with the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff at the forefront of our minds," Superintendent Perry Gorrell wrote on Facebook.


Arnett said it’s counterintuitive to move her children from a crowded school to a crowded daycare.


"We’re going to try to manage work and school and entertainment," Arnett said when she is working from home.


Both she and her husband work full time, so meals aren’t a concern for them, she said.


A special education teacher sent a large binder home on Monday with academic goals, speech and maintenance activities to keep her son from losing ground, she said.


They will make their "best attempt" at home schooling, Arnett said.


A packet of work also was sent home with her second-grader. The teacher plans daily online video conferencing with students and parents.


Despite the major inconvenience, closing schools was the correct decision, Arnett said.


"It’s unfortunate, but I think it’s the right call to stop this in its tracks," Arnett said. "The uncertainty is difficult, especially for special needs families."


Grant Elementary School parent Yvette Kiel called the closings "a little inconvenient."


A restaurant worker, Kiel said she may be spending more time at home with her son if the disease continues to hurt restaurant business.


"My son and I will be doing lots of homework, as well," she said.


She also supports the decision to close schools "just to keep everyone safe."


Thu Nguyen, who has a third-grader at Grant, said she works part-time but may spend more time at home with her child starting next week.


"It’s kind of difficult for me to take care of the children," she said. "I feel relief when the kids are home from school. It’s kind of like mixed feelings."


All school districts in Boone County and many more around the state have closed or will close soon to control the spread of coronavirus.


The Hallsville, Centralia, Southern Boone and Sturgeon school districts all announced their decisions late Monday or early Tuesday.


"We recognize the hardship this places on our families, and we thank you for your support and patience as we work through this process," Superintendent John Downs wrote to Hallsville parents after announcing the decision.


Around the region, the Mexico School District announced Tuesday morning that classes would be closed starting Friday until at least April 13.


"We recognize the hardship this places on our families, and we thank you for your support and patience as we work through this uncharted process," the district stated in a post on its Facebook page. "Our schools serve as places of learning, but they are also sources of comfort, routine, support, and nutrition for children in our community. Decisions like this are tough to make as we also consider food insecurity and unsupervised youth."


Most districts are working to arrange online coursework and interaction with teachers while classes are suspended.


In a message to families on Facebook, the Centralia School District said it would have students in class on Wednesday to give families a day to plan.


"Our staff will be working diligently to prepare alternative instruction as we work to minimize the impact of this suspension," the statement reads. "As these plans materialize, we will inform you of the next steps in supporting your student’s learning."


Southern Boone Superintendent Chris Felmlee, in a statement on the district’s website, wrote that students would be expected to complete work assigned by teachers, either on paper or online based on grade level and access to online learning.


Most districts set dates in early April as the earliest they would attempt to restart in-person instruction.


The decisions follow announcements from Columbia Public Schools and the Harrisburg School District that classes would be suspended in their districts.


Private schools are also closing. The Diocese of Jefferson City and Columbia Independent School both announced plans to close.


rmckinney@columbiatribune.com


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