Return to Learn

During last week's board meeting, the Lincoln County R-III School District’s COVID-19 Task Force Committee unveiled its 26 page “Return to Learn Plan” for the upcoming school year, which is scheduled to begin Aug. 25.

The district will utilize a three-tiered approach over the school year in regards to occupancy and instruction for the return of its students and employees to its campuses in the county.

• Tier I offers in-person learning to all students with additional safety guidelines. Families can elect the virtual option for a minimum of one semester from kindergarten through twelfth grade. The tier may include short-term building closures, if necessary.

• Tier II limits building capacities by state or local order, which would prevent all students from being present in the buildings at one time. This would create a combination of distance and in-person learning. Families who have elected virtual learning for a semester would become entirely virtual for the entire year, and short-term building closures might be necessary.

• A Tier III order is a long-term closure order from the state or local government based on evidence of district-wide transmission of COVID-19, or evidence of widespread community transmission of the novel coronavirus in Lincoln County.

Under this order, there will be limited staff attendance and all students will receive distance learning.

“The district is proud of the work that has been done in planning for our ‘Return to Learn, on Aug. 25,” Lincoln County R-III District Superintendent Dr. Mark Penny said. “We understand that choosing between in-person and virtual learning is not an easy decision for our families. 

“The district is, and will remain, committed to our mission of providing trusting relationships and superior instruction to all of our students.” 

The plan contains seven sections: academics, transportation, latchkey, health and wellness, communications, personnel and facilities. All sections will involve cleanliness and protection from the novel coronavirus, as well as protocols on what will happen if there is a spike in COVID-19 cases.

The plan was developed over two months, starting at the end of May, and featured input from parents, guardians, district employees, as well as students. The school district also sought guidance from the Lincoln County Health Department, and the guidelines in the plan are based on the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and other federal, state and county agencies.

While the plan is in place, Penny said more work would continue as the school year approaches, as well as when the school year begins.

“Planning will be ongoing as we know that changes in circumstances will continue to occur,” he said. “We will also continue to work closely with the Lincoln County Health Department, and other local and state agencies, to keep our students, employees and community as safe as possible. 

“The district is grateful for the patience, partnership and flexibility of all of our stakeholders as the situation continues to be fluid.” 

For more information on the district’s “Return to Learn” Plan, please visit the district’s website at