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ST. LOUIS — Bryan Hill Elementary is the latest school in the St. Louis area to return to virtual learning because of rising COVID-19 cases.

The school announced it will continue with online classes until at least Jan. 10. 

“We found out that we had too many members of staff that had to be quarantined for COVID-19 to be able to effectively run the school. It’s a small school, so it didn’t take all that many people, but it was enough that we had to make a quick pivot,” said George Sells, a spokesperson for St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS).

The district also announced sports will be canceled until students and coaches test negative. 

“We feel like kids need to be in school but we want to be as safe as reasonably possible,” said Byron Clemens, a spokesperson for the American Federation of Teachers St. Louis (Local 420).

The current staffing shortage may make that difficult. Education Plus, a non-profit that collaborates with local districts echoed that message with the following statement:

“School districts are always concerned about keeping students safe while in school. They know that an in-person environment is the best place to learn. And up to this point, schools have been doing a good job keeping students and staff safe while maintaining in-person learning. This current rise in numbers, though, brings a new concern in regards to staffing. With an already reduced pool of substitutes, if a school building has a significant number of staff out due to COVID positive cases or exposure to COVID it will become difficult to properly staff buildings and provide an effective in-person learning environment.”

More Illinois schools are also starting the school semester off virtually. However, there is a difference in how schools are allotted virtual classroom instruction in different states.

For example, Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education no longer has its Flexible Long-term AMI plan that they had during last school year, so this may make going virtual more difficult in some school districts.

Other school districts have announced they are also making changes as students return to the classroom. St. John Vianney High School will restart the year virtually. After winter break, Lindbergh and Kirkwood School Districts will require students to wear masks.