NORTH KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- KCTV5 News is your back to school authority, so we are working to get answers on how state officials will safely reopen schools.

Thursday, Missouri Governor Mike Parson was in town to speak to local superintendents about that.

The governor had a private meeting with 10 superintendents from across the area. As many schools make plans to start the year virtually, some rural and urban districts are still trying to make sure all students have internet access at home.

With more than 48,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 1,200 deaths, Missouri is now considered a red zone.

Governor Parson touring the state to talk about reopening plans for schools. Many schools will start online. In a meeting with 10 local districts the, governor expressed concerns.

“I think everyone understands that the virus is here and we’re going to have to deal with it,” he said. “I am extremely worried about kids with low income, in a poverty situation, and kids with disabilities. That could be very easily some kids who get left out of the system. Many kids will have the ability to go virtual. Those that have the ability to do that will, but there’s going to be a lot of kids that do not.”

It’s a growing need Carrie Coogan with the Kansas City Public Library has been trying to address even before the pandemic. “Can you imagine not being able to access the internet and suddenly your entire educational livelihood depends on it?” she said.

Earlier this year, Governor Parson cut more than $130 million from the state education budget.

Since then, officials have identified more than $60 million in CARES Act funding. A memo from the Department of Education shows schools will be eligible for at least $30 million to address connectivity needs.

“I still think it’s going to boil down to students and families needing access,” Coogan said. “When I say ‘access,’ it’s not just the plans in the provider. It’s the affordability of an equitable access plan, which means high-speed internet.”

Parson said he will work toward bridging the digital divide.

“We’ve got to figure out how do we outreach to them,” he said. “What are the schools doing? What am I doing as governor to connect to those people?”

As schools apply for CARES Act funding, digital inclusion advocates say you can donate to organizations like Connecting for Good that give away computers and hotspots to families in need throughout our community.

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