OAK GROVE, Mo. — About 100 students are being asked to stay home, and several of them are reportedly in quarantine.
Oak Grove Middle School is asking its entire sixth grade class to stay home after a teacher tested positive for COVID-19. But the potential exposure wasn’t the only reason the district decided to keep those kids home.
The coronavirus case is making mom Brandie Lyons thankful her family chose virtual learning for her two high school and one middle school student this fall.
“I just don’t want her and the boys to feel responsible if someone were to have gotten sick because they were there,” Lyons said.
But she was still concerned after getting a notification about a coronavirus case in her daughter’s grade. She’s worried for the teachers and her children’s friends.
“A lot of people talk about the mental health reasons for being face-to-face, but we aren’t talking about what we’re going to be doing and what this is going to look like if their friends get sick, if their friends die from this,” Lyons said. “What do you do then? How do you talk to your sixth-grader about that?”
Part of Oak Grove’s reasoning for quarantining the entire sixth grade was not only to stop the virus from spreading further, but the district was also nervous about finding enough substitute teachers to fill all those middle school classes during this pandemic to keep school going.
“Before the pandemic came, we had folks with concerns about finding substitute teachers, and then the pandemic hit, and it really intensified,” said Paul Katnik, assistant commissioner of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
That’s why Missouri’s created a new pathway to get substitute teachers licensed.
Instead of needing 60 college credit hours in any field, you can now complete a 22-hour online course and be ready to go. In the past two weeks since it launched, more than 1,000 Missourians have already signed up.
“We are wondering, like you are, if we really train you on how to do it, will that even prepare you better to go in and be a substitute teacher?” Katnik said.
With more subs coming online soon, the state hopes it could help keep schools around the state open.
The new program also includes follow-up elements. Once candidates have completed it, the state education department gets a copy of their scores from the online training. The state also follows up with any district where the candidates are hired to see if those people are proving to be effective substitute teachers.