SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Central High School in Springfield has over 500 faculty and students out of school on Thursday.

Stephen Hall, the Chief Communications Officer for Springfield Public Schools, says not all of these are positive cases. Instead, this number is made up of students and teachers who might have been exposed to the virus as well as those who have COVID-19 or who may be sick for other reasons. For parents, these numbers came as a shock.

“I talked to my kids daily about their experiences, particularly since we’ve been back from the holidays” Parent of twin boys at Central Cory Goode said. “It shocked me to see that the number was that high. You know, basically a quarter of the student body.

However, daily positive cases are rising at Springfield Public Schools. According to Hall, the district had 260 positive COVID-19 cases on Monday, and 150 on Tuesday.

The weekly case average in December for the district was only 150.

“We need to be very realistic that we are facing workforce challenges that will only be made worse by the surge in cases that we are seeing in our community and as a result of that we will be faced with some difficult choices likely in the coming weeks,” says Hall.

Hall says that due to staffing shortages and rising cases, the district is looking at virtual learning being a very real possibility within the next few weeks.

“That may include switching to virtual learning at a classroom grade level or building site based on the surge that we’re seeing at that particular location, and so we’re asking the community to remain flexible and to give us grace as we have to make those difficult choices based on our ability to staff our school sites,” Hall continued.

Goode said weighing all the options for the district is important to help prevent the spread of the virus.

“There are a lot of benefits to the students and the teachers being face to face,” Goode said. “But at the same time you know, I think it is time to consider what are our options are. What can we do to protect our students and our teachers and the administration and the community at large? What steps can we take to mitigate that? I don’t think anybody wants to go completely virtual for a long extended period of time. But you know this is an extreme case, that something as simple as going virtual might be able to to help in the long run.”

While much of the state is facing a COVID-19 test shortage, Hall says the district has enough tests for the next few weeks.

“SPS does continue to offer free COVID-19 rapid testing to all symptomatic students and staff. We have a centralized testing center, so anyone who’s exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 may schedule a test through their school nurse, and they’re given a specific time and location where they show up. And they’re able to receive their rapid test results the same day, so that continues to work well and is staffed efficiently. And we do have a sufficient inventory right now to continue testing through this weekend through next week and we received another shipment of test kits as recently as yesterday, so we feel good about where we are,” says Hall.