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1,800 students signed up for SJSD virtual academy, resulting in school delay

“We realize people aren’t turning cartwheels about it,” said Doug Van Zyl, SJSD Superintendent.

Posted: Jul 31, 2020 7:23 AM
Updated: Jul 31, 2020 8:33 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Students in the St. Joseph School District will have one more week of summer.

The district announced Wednesday, school is being pushed back one week to August 31st.

Once the doors do open, masks will be required for students, staff and teachers. St. Joseph School District officials said masking up is the right decision. 

“We realize people aren’t turning cartwheels about it,” said Doug Van Zyl, SJSD Superintendent. 

District officials said in places where social distancing isn't possible, masks will be required. Van Zyl said the district hears the other side of the mask debate and are trying to make mask free time during the school day. 

“To be able to build in those times where we can have some breaks because nobody wants to sit in a mask for 6-7-8 hours,” said Van Zyl.

There will be mask exceptions for students with disabilities as well as leniency for younger kids, but for everyone else, district officials said masks will be required. 

“If they want to be at school, if they want to play sports, if they want to stay healthy, let’s do what we have to do to help everybody out,” said Maria Burnham, SJSD Health Services Coordinator. 

As for the one week delay, Van Zyl said the district needs more time getting the virtual academy ready. The amount of students in the St. Joseph School District signing up to learn virtually this fall reaching 1,800 students so far. 

“The number of kids makes it look like we’re gonna need more teachers trained and wanna give them the opportunity to do that,” said Van Zyl. 

Although the number seems high, the number of students opting to learn digitally this year resembles other school districts.

“In districts around us and in some larger districts as well, they’re seeing 13%, 15%, 18% of their kids so we’re pretty much in line with that,” said Van Zyl. 

School officials said the district's decision to mask up all comes down to guidance from those who know best. 

“We receive almost a bombardment of information. So, we take all that information and we have to make it work for our school district for our school district because we aren’t New York City and we’re not Florida, we’re St. Joseph, Missouri,” said Burnham. 

Van Zyl adds that, “And everything is really leaning and guiding us towards masks. Masks are you know the thing that is something we can do to try to provide that extra layer besides cleaning and disinfecting. Masks and social distancing are the two things along with hand washing that people keep coming back to.”

For those students learning online this fall, vaccines will be required.

Every student, even if attending the virtual academy, will still need to get their necessary vaccines in order to register for the upcoming school year. 

Friday, July 31st is the last day for families to tell the St. Joseph School District whether their child plans to attend school in-person or enroll in the virtual academy. 

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The windy weather is expected to diminish across for northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas as a area of high pressure moves in to the area on Friday. Cooler air will slowly move in from the north by late Friday night and Saturday morning. Another front will start to move through late weekend and will becoming the focus for potential showers and possibly thunderstorms over the weekend.
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