COVID-19 causes further changes to STJ schools

    COVID-19 has caused further changes to how students will learn at St. James schools. The middle school will be moving to a hybrid learning plan and the Lucy Wortham James Elementary School will go virtual following Thanksgiving break.

    “Due to the excessive student quarantines in the middle school building, St. James Middle School will shift into the Hybrid Learning Plan starting Monday, November 30. While we would of course prefer to have all students in the building full time, we are hopeful that reducing the daily population in the middle school building on a temporary basis will help slow the spread of COVID-19 and allow us to fully resume regular operations soon,” the district said in a statement last week.
    Under the hybrid plan, the middle school will go to 50 percent capacity, with safety precautions in place. Students will attend school in person twice per week and have three days of remote learning. Students will be separated into Red and White days based on their last name, allowing families to request students in the same home to have the same schedule, and days will alternate between in-person and remote learning, with all students being remote on Fridays. The John F. Hodge High School moved to this learning model last week and the middle school now joins them in the hybrid model.
    All courses will be available on the district learning management system Canvas to allow students access to any resources they might need for classes and all courses will meet Missouri Learning Standards. Special Education students and those who need special instruction will have accommodations to allow for small group courses. All other district safety precautions currently in place, such as mask wearing and social distancing, will remain in place for students and teachers. For students who lack internet access, all instructional materials will be shared while students are on campus.
    “The Red group will attend seated classes on Mondays and Wednesdays and learn from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The White group will attend seated classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and learn from home Mondays and Wednesdays. All students will learn virtually on Friday and have scheduled time to connect with their teachers,” the district said.
    The Lucy Wortham James Elementary School will move to virtual courses due to the high number of COVID-19 cases. Superintendent Dr. Merlyn Johnson said the district was informed last week of a number of individuals at the elementary school who tested positive for COVID-19 or who were quarantined because of the virus, leading to the change. “Due to the increasing number of elementary educational staff outages and lack of substitute coverage, we are no longer able to adequately provide essential educational services for our elementary students,” Johnson said.
    “Out of an abundance of caution and the historically rapid spread of COVID-19, we will be transitioning to distance learning for all Lucy Wortham James Elementary Pre-K to fifth grade students during the week after Thanksgiving,” he said.
    All buildings will remain in their model of learning through Friday, December 4, with the district aiming to have students return to their buildings for in-person learning beginning on Monday, December 7. Johnson noted these plans are subject to change based on the area COVID-19 numbers, the number of positive cases, as well as quarantine numbers.
    “Please know we are taking this situation very seriously and will continue to communicate with the Phelps-Maries County Department of Health about county and community COVID-19 numbers. During the Lucy Wortham James Elementary School virtual/ alternative method of instruction week of November 30-December 4, our teachers have prepared virtual learning platforms through Google Classroom,” Johnson said. “We will provide iPads to students whose parents permit them to take home an iPad in order to continue learning through the virtual format.”
    More information about the hybrid learning plan can be found on the district’s website at or on the St. James R-1 School District Facebook page. Any parents with questions about the changes are encouraged to contact their building principal to learn more.