Southwest navigates graduation requirements

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Many aspects of life have changed over the last few weeks while the world deals with COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Among those adapting to a “temporary” reality are high school seniors. The Missouri School Boards’ Association (MSBA) has developed a guide for districts to follow while making decisions regarding their graduating class.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is also working with districts to make sure seniors graduate on time.

According to an article from, DESE has excessed its authority to waive some requirements, extend timelines and has made some recommendations to the Governor’s office to waive some statutory requirements.

However, districts are looking at their own graduation requirements and each district can waive requirements listed in their own policies, as long as, it is not required by DESE or by law.

On April 2, Gov. Mike Parson approved DESE’s request to remove the following statute from the requirement of 2020 graduating seniors scheduled to graduate in the spring:

• Require instruction in personal finance or assessment of personal finance

• Need to complete 30 minutes of CPR instruction and Heimlich training

• Seniors that still need to take Missouri and US Constitution or citizenship tests

Additionally, MSBA adapted a resolution in response to health emergency, which states that the school board will trust the superintendents’ judgment to make difficult decisions for the district without the luxury of a meeting, as some decisions will need to be made quickly.

Until the state of emergency in Missouri ends, the school district will also implement the new federal Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act for all eligible employees.

The school board approved the base salary of $35,000, and the district spent $5,460,979.15 in salaries and benefits in 2019-2020.

With cuts and changes to personnel at the end of 2019-2020, the district will save $190,582.43, of which 159,029.01 will be spent on employment salary increases and benefit increases to the board of education.

Also approved was the amending and spending percentage in the 2019-2020 budget from 1 percent to 5 percent because of the concern with spending the full 1 percent due to taking the wellness break because of coronavirus.

April Board of Education elections have been moved to June, but there may not be the addition of write-in candidates that did not file by the March 27 deadline.

The district’s new used bus purchase was picked up on April 3 and has been used to deliver meals to see if any issues with it show up during the 30-day warranty.

The wellness break lunches will continue to be offered until May 13, the scheduled last day of school.

At this time in reference to a number of grants, reimbursements and CARES Act, Tosha Tilford, Southwest superintendent, applied for SEMA/FEMA for purchases relating to COVID-19 and a Volkswagen Trust grant for reimbursement of 45 percent of a new school bus.

Missouri is receiving $208 million for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, $54 million in the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, $2.38 million in the Coronavirus Relief Fund, as well as, other funds related to the FY20 Stimulus Bill.

The funds will be distributed according to certain requirements to each fund.

Southwest donated hand sanitizer and sanitation wipes to the Barry County Sheriff’s Office, which Sheriff Gary Davis said he was thankful for.

Eric Thieman and Jocelyn Creason resigned from the 2020-2021 school year, and Brooke Thiesen and Abby Crum were recommended for employment for the 2020-2021 school year.

Current openings include a custodian, bus discipline and the middle school boys basketball coach.

In reassignments, Kenny Ferguson took the position of high school principal, Kendra Outhouse took the full-time paraprofessional position and Tia Morgan took a fourth-grade teaching position.

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