Today, Governor Parson announced the closure of Missouri public school campuses for the remainder or the 2019-2020 school year. Just as this decision weighed heavily upon the governor, it also weighs on every student, educator, school board member, parent, and citizen in our state. It is a new reality for us all, and we will not know the full ramifications of this decision for years to come. What we do know, though, is that Missouri’s 70,000 teachers will continue to do what they do best: educate and love kids. Through remote instruction, daily phone calls, online class meetings, packets, and food service, we will continue to meet the needs of every student in every district in this state. However, that is just the beginning. Educators must work to be prepared for the return of students who will be deeply impacted by this virus that has ravaged the fundamentals of their lives. These children to whom we have promised our very best efforts will come back to us changed by these disruptions. They will come back to a system that must also be changed. As before, focus will continue to be placed on curriculum, and finding a way to bridge the chasm that may be a result of missed traditional instruction. However, a focus must also be on the social-emotional development of our students. We must work to ensure that our kids are okay not only academically, but also psychologically: that they are ready for the future in every way. We have a monumental responsibility before us. I know, without a doubt, Missouri is up to the task. We will work together to learn from this extraordinary circumstance, and public schools will come out of it stronger than before.

Misty Grandel is an ELA teacher at Fordland High School and the 2020 Missouri Teacher of the Year.