Springfield Public Schools announced Friday that the earliest students will return for in-person learning is Monday, Jan. 31.
The district cited a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the omicron variant — one not expected to peak until early February, according to local health officials — in its decision to keep students out of school buildings next week.
On Monday, there will be no in-person or live virtual instruction, continuing a closure that started Jan. 19.
From Tuesday through Friday, students will shift to virtual learning.
Superintendent Grenita Lathan told the school board this week that virtual learning was not possible before because too many teachers were sick and there were not enough suitable substitutes available.
"We don't want to close school. I'll tell you that is a last report for me," she said Tuesday. "But we don't have a choice at this point and we do need our staff members to be well."
She said the district has school nurses out sick too "It's heartbreaking right now."
In a message Friday to parents, the district said while some teachers and staff are not yet able to return to the classroom due to COVID-19 illness or exposure, some are able to provide virtual instruction from home.
A week ago, 20 percent of the district's 3,500 employees and 19 percent of the 24,100 students were absent from school.
The Springfield district has documented 1,642 cases of COVID-19 across its system from Jan. 4-18 including 1,237 students and 405 employees.
The district's single-day total from Tuesday was three times higher than any previous seven-day period since the start of the pandemic.
The Springfield-Greene County Health Department estimates 1 out of every 25 people in the community are now infectious.
Between community testing sites and the centralized testing completed by the district, at least 50 percent of symptomatic individuals are testing positive.
The district, in its message to parents, provided instructions and tips for the temporary move to virtual learning, Tuesday through Friday:
Each day, students will be expected to log in during their scheduled class time, engage and participate in learning;
Live technical support will be available Monday through Friday. Contact the IT Help Desk between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. at 417-523-HELP or the Launch Help Desk from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 417-523-0417. Parents may also email questions to email@example.com;
Printed resources will be available for students in kindergarten through second grade who may not be able to participate in virtual learning. Parents should contact their child’s school to request a packet;
Students who need a device or hotspot may pick them up at their school on Monday, Jan. 24, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.;
Grab and go meals will be available to pick up, but you must sign up by Sunday, Jan. 23. Meals will be available for pick-up on Monday and Thursday at select sites.
The district has asked the school board to consider issuing a mandatory masking order that includes students and employees from Jan. 31 through Feb. 18. No decision by the board is expected until next week.
Claudette Riley is the education reporter for the News-Leader. Email news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: COVID surge causes to SPS close Monday, go virtual Tuesday-Friday