Eureka High students return to school

Eureka High School students follow safety protocols, including wearing masks, as they enter the school building.

All students in the Rockwood School District now may attend classes in person.

The district’s middle school students returned to campus on Nov. 4, with sixth-grade students attending classes that day and seventh- and eighth-graders returning on Nov. 5.

High school freshment started in-person instruction Nov. 11, and sophomores, juniors and seniors joined them the next day.

“It’s great to have kids back in the building,” said LaSalle Springs Middle School Principal Aaron Wilken. “It’s just a different energy in the place.

Families have the option of sending children to school for in-person instruction or to keep them home to learn remotely.

As of Nov. 19, LaSalle Springs had 690 students attending class in-person and 150 students opting to learn virtually.

Eureka High School had 1,380 students receiving in-person instruction and 390 students learning online.

“We recognize how important it is for Eureka to offer (in-class instruction), and for Rockwood to offer our students a normal learning experience – normal as we can,” Eureka High assistant principal David Arledge said. “We’re grateful for the ability to do that, especially during the pandemic.”

Superintendent Mark Miles has warned that some classrooms or buildings may have to temporarily offer only distance learning if the number of COVID-19 positive tests or quarantines because of possible exposure make it impractical to have students in class.

“Unfortunately, the quarantines are resulting in some critical shortages in staffing,” he said in a Nov. 10 statement. “If this continues, these shortages may not allow us to support in-person educational services appropriately in the near future. This is why I’m asking our staff and families to join me in preparing for the future possibility of a short-term return to fully remote learning for students.”

As of Monday, Rockwood officials reported that 12 Eureka High students had tested positive for COVID-19 and 123 students were in quarantine.

Fewer than 10 staff members had tested positive for the virus and 21 staff members were in quarantine, as of Monday.

The district reported that fewer than 10 students at LaSalle Springs had tested positive for the virus, 71 students were in quarantine, fewer than 10 staff members had tested positive for the virus and 14 staff members were in quarantine.

Eureka High

Arledge said administrators have a mask policy that addresses types of face coverings that may be worn at school. He said officials thought this may pose a problem as students returned, but it has not been an issue.

“Eureka High School decided to go one step further, because of the data that’s been provided to us, and we didn’t allow gaiters or bandanas to be worn,” Arledge said. “We want it to just be a mask, and our kids have come through huge. They have done exactly what we’ve asked. We’ve had no problems with kids wearing the masks over the nose and under the chin.”

Arledge said each classroom has a sanitation station with hand sanitizer, wipes and tissues. The trash can has been moved into the hallway for students to leave the classroom if they need to blow their nose or remove their mask for another reason before throwing something away.

“We provided those things, hoping that we can lessen the effects of

COVID-19,” Arledge said.

Arledge said he has received positive feedback about how the school is offering breakfast, snack and lunch options.

Eureka High is providing “grab-and-go” pre-packaged meals.

Eureka High Principal Corey Sink said the option was created so students do not gather in large groups to eat lunch.

“We’ve had a lot of interest in the grab-and-go,” Arledge said.

Arledge said classrooms typically allow only about 4 feet of space between students rather than the recommended 6 feet.

“We’re doing what we can to keep our kids safe,” Arledge said.

LaSalle Springs

Wilken said it is difficult to offer in-person and virtual instruction with more than 10 staff members in quarantine. Most of the quarantined teachers are offering instruction from home.

“That’s certainly been an obstacle for us,” he said.

Wilken said the school has not encountered difficulty enforcing its mask-wearing policy among students and staff members, and those in school have been able to keep at least 6 feet apart from each other in most situations.

“I think we spent a lot of time worrying about those mitigation strategies,” Wilken said. “Much to our surprise, that has not been an issue at all.”

Wilken said the school’s lunch schedule has been adjusted to keep students farther apart from each other while eating and not wearing masks. He said there are six lunch periods this year instead of three.

“We’ve actually found we have a lot more space in the cafeteria that allows us to space kids out even farther than we even thought possible,” Wilken said.

Wilken said many students have mentioned that they miss using lockers.

“I do hear from kids that their backpacks are heavy,” he said. “However, I think they enjoy the idea of having everything with them rather than trying to remember what goes from class to class. From a staff perspective, no, we don’t miss the use of lockers. Not having lockers leads to quicker transitions between classes and eliminates the congregating of kids in the hall.”

Wilken said students learning from home will continue to receive quality instruction.

“Our kids will Zoom in at the beginning of their class, and they’ll receive that direct instruction from the teacher right alongside the seated students,” Wilken said.