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State education board keeps 36-hour virtual learning rule

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mallory McGowin, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, acknowledged many schools currently are 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 Missouri students.

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