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COVID-19 cases in Ozarks school districts skyrocket; SPS adds 500+ cases this week

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 2:33 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Springfield Public Schools and schools across the Ozarks report an increase in COVID-19 cases. And the crisis is creating even more staffing issues.

At the end of the day Wednesday, SPS reported 530+ plus cases in the first three days this week.

“We did communicate with families ahead of the winter break that we had significant concerns about the timing of the winter break and the beginning of this surge because we know many times people gather over the holidays in larger numbers,” said Stephan Hall, SPS Communications. “In some cases, many people were not wearing masks and we did have concerns that we would see an increase in the number of cases.”

And the new number of cases in SPS almost doubles its record case amount throughout the entire pandemic. Staffing was already a concern for not only SPS but districts around the Ozarks. SPS reported 260 cases reported on Monday alone, 150 more cases on Tuesday alone, and then 120 more cases on Wednesday.

“We have about 20% of our workforce that is out today and that is a significant concern because we had a workforce shortage prior to this surge,” said Hall. “We want to maintain in-person learning as much as possible but may there be a need for us to transition virtual learning for a classroom or for a grade level and in some extreme cases it’s an option. The important thing we want families to know is that because things are changing so quickly, it is important to remain flexible and to provide us grace as we need to transition based on the real-time shortages and staffing that we are seeing now,” said Hall.

Nixa School District staff says they will probably see a record in student COVID-19 cases this week based on data.

“We will see probably a record week this week for our student cases but our staff is not seeing any significant increase,” said Zac Rantz, Nixa Schools Communications. “We are seeing a drastic increase in our student population cases though and probably our biggest issue with everything is going to be our substitutes and the fill right for those staff who are sick.”

Nixa staff reported 60+ cases in the district so far for this week. They predict an increase.

“If any building hits 2% of positive cases that would have been in the building, then that would trigger that building to mask up for a particular period of time,” said Rantz. “We’ve not hit that yet, in any of our buildings since the second semester started. We are seeing a lot of our students may be out, but a majority of them now, we’re not in the buildings when they were contagious.”

The Missouri State Education Board also decided to keep the state law limiting virtual instruction to 36 hours per school year. School districts closing because of high absences and exceed the limit may have to extend the school year to meet a state requirement of instruction hours each year.

KY3 asked if this rule will affect the decisions to go virtual for both districts.

“It’s not going to impact us in any of our decisions because we have built-in time to our school schedule and planned ahead on how many days we can do virtual and still adhere to the state guidelines,” said Rantz with Nixa Public Schools. “We have all those things in place and schools can use up to six days for virtual schooling is but what it boils down to.”

“We’ll be monitoring that 36-hour rule closely and as we assess the need we will certainly factor in all of those requirements that were in full compliance,” said Hall with SPS communications. “I know there is some flexibility for districts what we call AMI or alternative method of instruction and those days could be options for those classrooms that may need to temporarily go virtual.”

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