Early success in containing virus prompts more St. Louis area schools to bring students back

Sep 25, 2020 by

About a dozen school districts in St. Louis County have started bringing students back to campuses

One month after thousands of students returned to schools across St. Louis, there have been no coronavirus outbreaks or spikes associated with in-person learning. The initial success has led many school districts to bring students back after starting the year fully online.

“Schools are the cleanest places to be right now, and the healthiest places,” said Jason Sefrit, superintendent of the 4,900-student City of St. Charles School District.

As of Thursday, there have been seven confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases in students and three in staff members in the district, where 65% of students attend school five days a week. Three elementary schools and one middle school haven’t reported any cases since school started Aug. 27.

“This has not been easy. Our staff are working extremely hard to make sure we can stay in school,” Sefrit said. “COVID is the number one thing on our minds every day.”

Coronavirus cases in children have held steady since most schools in St. Charles County opened in late August. Among 5- to 10-year-olds, there were 46 cases in July, 47 cases in August and 33 cases so far in September. There were 34 cases in 11- to 13-year-olds in July and again in August, and 30 cases this month. Older teenagers recorded 278 cases in July, 252 in August and 208 with a week remaining in September.

In St. Louis County, thousands of students returned to private school campuses in late August while most public school buildings stayed closed. Only Jennings and Normandy school districts started the year with in-person options.

County health officials have recently updated their recommendations for all-virtual learning to allow for the return of elementary and middle school students, based on declining rates of coronavirus in the age groups. About a dozen districts have started to bring back students in the youngest grades.

Daily new cases at the ZIP code level have been unchanged in September in the Mehlville School District, said Superintendent Chris Gaines. Preschoolers through second graders can now return to school in the district, with older students through middle school returning in early October.

“I think our students with special needs are probably struggling the most (with virtual learning), and so that’s part of the reason that we want to get our students back as soon as we can, as soon as it’s feasible,” Gaines said.

In the Parkway district, leaders have indicated an intent to open schools in October if positive trends continue. Emily Maupin, an organizer of the group Parkway Parents for In Person Learning, said families have experienced frustrations with virtual learning from privacy concerns, excessive screen time and technology glitches to reports of depression in children.

Source: Early success in containing virus prompts more St. Louis area schools to bring students back ​ | Education | stltoday.com

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