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Rural schools in Lincoln County finding creative ways to educate students as schools cancel

"Many of our students don’t have broadband internet and that’s really a need in our area," Superintendent Mark Penny said

LINCOLN COUNTY, Mo. — Governor Mike Parson hasn't officially ordered schools to close in the state of Missouri.

But major school districts are taking matters into their own hands and canceling class.

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All four districts in Lincoln County joined those schools Monday morning. They are officially closed until April 3rd because of COVID-19. 

After seeing other schools close, they knew it was time to do the same.

"Over the weekend when one district in St. Louis County decided to close, it kind of put the rest of us on alert," Lincoln County R-3 District Superintendent Mark Penny said.

"In my 28th year in education, last 20 in administration, and I’ve never experienced anything like this," he said passionately. 

That's why Monday morning, he called a meeting with all four districts to close school. Penny said it was only a matter of time.

"I’m concerned about the coronavirus spreading and we’re trying to mitigate that issue," he explained.

This is music to Michelle Woods' ears. Two of her three children are in the district.

"I was hoping we had an answer this weekend, but at least they are trying to make decisions," she said.

Before the district pulled the plug, Woods pulled her own son out of school.

"I do have a son that's immunocompromised due to his chest condition, so for him, it can be dangerous. I couldn’t take chances with my kids," she said.

Woods is happy the decision is now set in stone.

But it's not all smooth sailing. The superintendent said school officials will have to find a way to jump one hurdle in Lincoln County.

"Many of our students don’t have broadband internet and that’s really a need in our area. Luckily, grades six through 12th have an individual device by the district. We’ll probably put together some type of learning packet," Penny told 5 On Your Side. 

As for food? The R-3 District plans to have feeding sites like other districts so children will have something for lunch.

While the future is uncertain, Penny said this is the right decision for Lincoln County schools.

"Making sure our children are protected and we think it’s a good time for them to be at home, until it’s extremely safe for them to come back to the schools," he added.

This Wednesday, district leaders plan on meeting to see how things will go with food distribution and how to distribute learning devices. They are asking parents to be on the look out for updates.

In District 3 alone, they have 850 employees. So, they're trying to figure out how they'll continue working with them.

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