RSD Extends School Closure Due to COVID-19


This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. The coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) March 11. Coronavirus cases are now confirmed in all 50 U.S. states and D.C., as reported by the Washington Post. The death toll in the United States from coronavirus now exceeds 100, and there are more than 6,200 confirmed cases in the U.S., according to the John Hopkins University data dashboard.

Amid concerns regarding the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, 26 St. Louis County and City school districts will attempt to prevent the spread of the virus by closing schools and cancelling athletic and extracurricular practices and competitions starting March 18 and will preliminarily end April 3 according to a Sunday, March 15 press release from the St. Louis City and St. Louis County schools. 

RSD, which serves more than 20,900 students in K-12, according to the RSD website, heeded bi-state leaders’ recommendations to close schools and protect students and staff after consulting with regional superintendents and the St. Louis Department of the Public Health.

Currently, as of March 17, 13 individuals tested positive for coronavirus in Missouri as reported by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). 

Hannah Chun, junior, said she was glad the district took measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus in school as students and their families have the potential of contracting the virus outside of school and on vacation. 

However, she said the decision to keep schools closed was the last option she could have hoped for due to the future implications. 

“There’s some in-class material that just can’t be taught online,” Chun said. “Online teaching will be kind of difficult when it comes to difficult subjects you can have a lot of questions to ask or for classes that require you to be face to face to really understand the concepts.”

Chun said she was concerned about teachers’ ability to prepare students for AP testing remotely, and although she hopes students the online teaching will be efficient, she said the issue with coronavirus could continue into months following April. 

Della Thompson, french teacher, said she often extends her instruction online for her AP French students, but she has considered how the lack of everyday communication and activities will impact her students’ foreign language speaking skills. 

“There’s a lot of face-to-face communication in a world language class, and I’m not sure how well that is going to go,” Thompson said. “Hopefully, with help from the curriculum coordinators and other teachers, we can brainstorm some ideas to help students keep up with their speaking skills.”

She said teachers should be able to provide some quality education to students outside of school, but she is concerned about students who don’t have access to wifi and hopes efforts will focus towards helping them.

“Modifying the curriculum like this is going to be difficult, especially for students who don’t have access to quality wifi,” Thompson said. “If the closure goes on longer than two weeks and parents are home too, there is the issue of not having enough bandwidth for everyone to be on at the same time.” 

She said she advises everyone to be patient and display their care and consideration for others in the community by erring on the side of caution and staying home. 

“It’s a lot easier to collaborate when we’re in the same building, so we’re going to have to work a lot harder to find ways to work together, but I’m very confident because we have a great staff and administration that can weather the situation together,” Thompson said.

Superintendent Dr. Mark Miles sent out an announcement of the cancellation Sunday, March 15, in which he acknowledged the impact of his decision on students, faculty and families in order to ensure the communities’ wellbeing. 

In his statement, he said due to the escalation of this unprecedented event, the district prepared for several weeks to continue providing nutritional, social-emotional and mental health services to students, and Executive Director of Student Services Dr. Terry Harris is tasked with school-based meal distribution plans and implementing those services.

Dr. Miles also announced the district will act in accordance with other major school districts and local universities by transitioning from in-person classes to online instruction under the guidance of Assistant Superintendent for Learning & Support Services Dr. Shelley Willott, who will provide information to families, staff and students after further deliberation.

Dr. Willott said she and Dr. Miles will continue discussing for the next couple days before she will have enough finalized information to share with the student press.

For future, on-going updates, especially concerning online classes and student resources, Dr. Miles advised the community to visit the Rockwood website.