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Citing 863 cases of Covid in a week, Springfield Public Schools cancels 3 days of classes

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Missouri’s largest school district has canceled classes for the remainder of this week, citing unprecedented case counts of Covid-19 among students and staff.

In a message to families shared Tuesday afternoon, Springfield Public Schools confirmed that the district has documented 661 cases of Covid-19 among students in the past week and 202 cases in staff during that same time.

“At this time, the best option to address staffing shortages and help limit further spread of COVID-19 is to temporarily close our schools and district offices beginning tomorrow – Wednesday, Jan. 19. We hope that by Monday, Jan. 24, we will be able to return to our normal operation; however, we will continue to monitor conditions and keep you updated if there is a need to extend our temporary closure,” the message read in part. According to the SPS website, the district serves more than 23,500 students from early childhood centers through high school.

Missouri’s public schools have been in a quandary, caught between implementing Covid guidelines and pressure from the state’s Attorney General Eric Schmitt to abandon mask mandates, even those decided on a local level. Last year, Schmitt—who is running for U.S. Senate—filed a reverse class-action lawsuit against school districts that had implemented mask mandates. You can read our coverage of that here.

In its notification to families Tuesday, SPS said free, "grab-and-go" meals will be available for students; sign-up is required. Students can pick up five days of meals on Wednesday, Jan. 19 between 4:00 and 5:00 at sites designated on this electronic sign-up form.

"In consultation with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, we determined that this was the best approach for protecting the health and well-being of all those we serve," the district shared in the online message Tuesday.

It added that if the staffing shortages are not better by Monday, the district "may include an extension of the temporary closure or a transition to virtual learning."

Other school districts across the region are facing skyrocketing absences, too: earlier on Tuesday, Willard Schools announced online they were moving to virtual learning for the remainder of the school week due to staff and student absences.