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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — More than 200 teachers who work for the Parkway School District called out sick and missed the first day of classes after winter break.

Superintendent Keith Marty notified parents and guardians that 240 teachers were absent Wednesday for various reasons, including testing positive for COVID-19, awaiting test results, or caring for sick family members.

“This is roughly twice the normal amount and represents nearly 20% of Parkway teachers absent from work today,” Marty wrote in a letter to parents Wednesday.

About 50% of the absences were covered by substitute teachers, prompting other faculty and staff to step in and help.

“These levels of absences are not ideal or sustainable for student safety and learning,” Marty wrote. “Due to a nationwide substitute teacher shortage, there are only so many substitutes available in the region and limited staff members available to cover classrooms to make sure students are safe.”

The district also reported student absences averaged between 13% and 19% on Wednesday.

Marty said the district wants to keep students in school and any decision to switch to virtual learning will be made on a “school-to-school basis.”

Non-profit organization Education Plus said Parkway wasn’t the only school district that experienced increased absences this week amid a spike in COVID-19 cases across the region. Edwardsville and St. Louis City public schools reportedly dealt with the same issue.