State board of education upholds 36-hour virtual learning rule

NORMANDY, Mo. (AP) – School districts struggling with staff absences due to COVID-19 are facing difficult decisions about how to provide the required number of instructional hours while being limited in the number of virtual learning hours allowed.

The state allows school districts to provide 36 hours — approximately one week — of alternative instruction out of the 1,044 total instructional hours required each school year.

Districts that temporarily close due to staff absences may be required to extend the school year to meet the 1,044-hour requirement, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

For example, a Normandy Schools Collaborative elementary school in St. Louis reached the 36-hour limit on Thursday, and Normandy High School is closed.

Mike Jones of the Normandy School Board this week called heads of state “Neanderthals who belong to a different age” for not giving districts more flexibility to move online during the latest wave of the virus.

The State Board of Education maintained the 36-hour limit on Tuesday after hearing a presentation on the issue.

Mallory McGowin, spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Elementary-Secondary Education, acknowledged that many schools are currently struggling to find enough staff for in-person learning.

But she said education officials continue to believe schools are among the safest places for most students in Missouri.

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