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St. Louis area schools returning to virtual classrooms as COVID-19 cases surges

"In the last five weeks, we went from three positive cases to 19, the week before last, and 20, this week,” one superintendent said

BELLEVILLE, Ill. — Several area school districts are returning to virtual classrooms Monday due to the coronavirus.

Among them are O’Fallon, Illinois, Township High School, the Fox C-6 School District in Jefferson County, and Belleville Township High School District 201.

“We had seen a steady increase in the number of students and faculty members who experienced symptoms or tested positive," Belleville Superintendent Dr. Brian Mentzer said. "In the last five weeks, we went from three positive cases to 19, the week before last, and 20, this week.”

Mentzer said District 201 has been hybrid, and virtual education is a path it has been down before. Like many St. Louis area school districts, 201 started the school year online.

“We do have a model that has been pretty successful,” said Mentzer. “We’re going to do a couple new things in the way we’re approaching it because of our spotted semester. We’re going to add some additional live meetings for lesson work for kids on a weekly basis. We’re also going to utilize support staff and administrators to do some close-checking and tutoring with kids.

RELATED: St. Louis area school districts adjust as COVID-19 cases spike

District 201 will remain virtual through December, but it’s too early to know what’s going to happen when school resumes after winter break in January, Mentzer said.

“One of the things we made clear when we went out, early on, is our focus is to be in school,” he said. “Staff has worked really hard at that – transportation, administrators, custodial, food service and others have worked hard to make that our focus.”

Fox C-6 School District Superintendent Dr. Nisha Patel released a statement Sunday about the decision to go virtual.

It reads, in part, “We noticed a huge spike of transmission within the community after Halloween and wanted to be proactive in our approach for after Thanksgiving. By switching to distance learning ... we are hopeful that we will be able to minimize the risk of exposure and maintain the hybrid level of in-person instruction in December, prior to Winter Break."

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