Citing a surge in COVID-19 cases among employees, the Republic school district will flip to virtual learning Friday.
The district notified parents by email early Thursday, describing the change as a “short pause” in seated or in-person learning.
Josey McPhail, director of communications, noted in the email that the district located in southwest Greene County was able to complete nearly 13 weeks with a majority of the students learning in person before making the change.
The district has repeatedly stated they believe students learn best at school, in person with their teachers and classmates.
“However, COVID19 has created challenges and obstacles that are making this difficult to sustain,” McPhail wrote in the email. “Specifically, the number of employees positive for COVID19 has increased greatly, which has caused teacher absences to be left unfilled by a substitute or another district staff member.”
Since Nov. 1, 35 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 including 19 in the past three days.
The district will move all students to virtual learning during the next two weeks — except for the Thanksgiving break. That means virtual learning will take place Nov. 20, 23-30 and Dec. 1-2.
According to the email, the district hopes to return to in-person learning on Dec. 3. It also assured parents that virtual learning will look much different than it did in the spring, in the early weeks of the pandemic.
McPhail said the “short pause” will allow infected employees time to heal and to stay in quarantine so they can return to school healthy. The district plans to spend the period deeply sanitizing the buildings.
She noted the virtual learning days will also allow the district to “evaluate the potential impact holiday gatherings” might have on the ability to return to in-person learning.
The district will provide WiFi hotspots to families that indicated that need, according to a FAQ sheet, and free school meals will be distributed starting Nov. 30.
Claudette Riley is the education reporter for the News-Leader. Email news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.