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Marshall Public Schools extends distance learning

RTR and other area districts change course

MARSHALL — As numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the area, Marshall Public Schools announced it will be staying in distance learning for longer than originally planned.

On Thursday, families in the school district received a notice that students will continue to use distance learning until December for some students, and January for others. Students will tentatively go back to in-person learning in phases, with elementary grade students returning to class before middle and high school students.

MPS had initially planned on switching to distance learning until Nov. 27. Superintendent Jeremy Williams said enough school staff members were either out sick or in quarantine that it was becoming difficult to find substitutes. As the notice to families said Thursday, that problem hasn’t gone away.

“As you are aware, the community, county and state COVID numbers are continuing to rise at a rapid rate. We have experienced a high number of staff absences for a variety of reasons. Because of this, the data does not support returning to school in the hybrid learning model and we feel it is safest to extend the distance learning for students and staff at this time,” the announcement said.

The tentative plan will be for students in early childhood education, Park Side and West Side Elementary, and MATEC to return to hybrid learning on Monday, Dec. 7. Marshall Middle School and Marshall High School students would return to class on Jan. 11.

As of Thursday, MPS had 10 staff and 17 students who had tested positive for COVID-19, and a total of 313 staff and students in quarantine because of close contact with a person who tested positive. The highest numbers of quarantining people, at 79, were at Marshall Middle School. Early childhood had 75 people in quarantine, and Park Side and MHS each had 62 people in quarantine.

Marshall isn’t alone in having to make the call on whether to go to distance learning. Around the area, the Murray County Central, Westbrook Walnut Grove and Yellow Medicine East school districts are all currently in distance learning. On Thursday, members of the Russell-Tyler-Ruthton School Board also met and voted to switch to distance learning starting Nov. 30.

RTR Superintendent David Marlette said the district “did pretty well” in terms of COVID-19 cases until the past two weeks or so, when community spread led to staff shortages. On Monday, RTR had 18 staff members who were either out sick or in quarantine, he said.

“When you’ve got that many staff gone, it’s tough,” Marlette said.

RTR students won’t have class on Nov. 23-24, while staff have planning time. Distance learning will begin Nov. 30, but Marlette said at this point he wasn’t certain when students would return to in-person learning. The RTR school board’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 9. “We’ll evaluate then,” he said.

“We truly hope to be back,” Marlette said. “The safest place for kids is in school.”

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