SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – While parents and students in Springfield prepare for a week of virtual classes, other districts are already returning to in-person learning after COVID-19 forced several school closures week.

Parents and guardians lined up at Westport Elementary in Springfield this afternoon to get their child’s Chromebooks and class materials.

“I think it’s going to be easy for him to transition back into it…He just doesn’t want to,” says Ericka Moysey, an SPS grandparent. “But I do understand why it’s being done and it really is for the best for the kids.”

Springfield Public Schools is also providing several days worth Grab and Go meals so parents don’t also have to worry about their kid’s daily lunches.

Just as SPS goes virtual this Tuesday, students and staff in Willard are already back in the classroom.
Superintendent Shane Dublin says the district made the decision to go virtual for three days last week due to an extreme shortage of substitute teachers in the area.

As teachers in Springfield are now able to work from home, Dublin says it’s made it possible for the Willard district to again secure enough substitutes to fill classrooms.

“Part of the decision to come back was based upon one of our largest neighbors, Springfield, staying closed and staying virtual,” says Dublic. “We anticipated having some of their subs join our pool.”

Penmac Staffing, which staffs substitutes for many school districts in the Ozarks, provided OzarksFirst with the latest numbers on the need for substitutes amid the Omicron surge.

Penmac says as of Tuesday, January 18th, substitutes were able to fill 235 of 425 spots requested  by Springfield Public Schools due to teacher absences.

For virtual classes on Tuesday, January 25th, Springfield Public School has so far only requested 40 substitutes.

In Willard on January 18th, Penmac was only able to staff 46 of the 84 spots needing filled due to staff absences.

On Tuesday, January 25th, Willard Schools was provided with 38 substitutes from the 45 the district had requested.

Despite facing severe staff and subsitute shortages last week, Dublin says the transition to virtual went well.
He says due to recently preparing a plan for holding class online during snow days, the Willard district was able to go virtual at a moments notice.

“Our teachers, our principals, even our students had the schedule in hand should we have to go to AMI,” says Dublin. “The other one was that all of our students K-12 have a device, so they’re able to take that device home the very night that we may make a decision.”

Dublin says he’s pleased at how many students and staff were able to come back to the classroom after having three days off.

As of Monday morning, attendance in the Willard School District was over 90%.

“[That] is really good, and this time we’re typically mid-90s, but to have above 90 when we’re going through a pandemic and a lot of illnesses, that’s a good thing for us.”

Springfield Public Schools is closed Monday and will hold virtual classes Tuesday through Friday.
School officials expect to have students and teachers back in the classroom on Monday, January 31st.