The 2019-2020 school year has finally come to a close. The end of the school year, which will always be remembered as the “coronavirus closure year”, left many school personnel feeling disconcerted. The most common sentiment is almost a question: “The school year is over?” We all know that even in “normal” times, the end of the school year is a formality that students, teachers, and parents recognize and celebrate. The end of the school year for most school leaders is a time to start working on the next school year long before the end of the current one. The final three months of the “coronavirus closure year” provided us an inordinate amount of time to plan much earlier this year. This additional time allowed us to prepare multiple scenarios with multiple contingencies for graduation, summer school and the return to school in the fall. For each of these topics and many more we have devised a Plan A and Plan B, but there are often Plans C, D, and E. All of this planning is taking place while still trying to find ways for students to experience important milestones in their lives. Our administrative and leadership teams have spent countless hours developing plans that are great today, but obsolete tomorrow.
To make matters more challenging, the economic hardships brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have caused a dramatic revenue shortfall for the state of Missouri. Across the state, approximately $500-$700 million must be cut or restricted, on top of the cuts and restrictions already announced. This past Monday, Governor Parson announced a total of $131.3 million in restrictions for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) for June 2020. This equates to a 39% reduction to the Foundation Formula this month. No transportation payment will be made to districts in June. St. James R-I School District and all Missouri public schools must plan for a year or two of tight budgets, as the State of Missouri waits for the economy to recover from COVID-19. Although we will inevitably be forced to make difficult choices in the coming months, we will survive these challenges while providing the very best education possible for all of our students. Throughout all of these challenges, we will continue to develop updated plans as the most important and relevant health and financial information is shared with us. Plans for graduation, summer school, and the return to school in the fall remain our top three priorities as we navigate through this summer. We will be making announcements very soon about graduation and summer school with an announcement in late June or early July about our return to school in the fall. Please keep in mind that all of our decisions may be adjusted or completely reversed at any time due to the unpredictableness and seriousness of COVID-19. We will continue to do our very best to share our most recent plans throughout the entire summer.