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62 Missouri school districts temporarily closed in January

January 20, 2022 GMT

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — So far in January, 62 Missouri school districts have closed for one or more days, largely because of a lack of staff caused by a surge in COVID-19 cases, education officials said Thursday.

That number is 12% of districts statewide, said Mallory McGowin, a spokeswoman for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The closures came after many districts dropped mask requirements before the winter break in December, partly in response to Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt threatening to sue school districts that imposed mask or quarantine mandates, The Kansas City Star reported.

Some of the state’s largest districts, including Springfield, Columbia and St. Joseph, have announced various plans to close for a few days because of staff shortages and high student absenteeism.

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The Odessa school district east of Kansas City is conducting virtual classes Thursday and Friday, rather than closing.

A state law limits Missouri school districts to 36 hours of virtual learning per school year.

Last week, the Missouri State Teachers Association asked the education department to allow more days for virtual learning.

McGowin said the state prefers in-person learning because it’s “what is best for our students.”