Mehlville is unsure if students will be back in buildings in fall, wants more feedback

Students+graduate+from+Oakville+High+School+in+a+socially+distanced+in-person+graduation+Sunday.+The+district+is+not+sure+it+will+return+to+school+in+person+in+the+fall.+

Students graduate from Oakville High School in a socially distanced in-person graduation Sunday. The district is not sure it will return to school in person in the fall.

By Gloria Lloyd, News Editor

As most St. Louis County school districts release their reopening plans Monday, the Mehlville School District has not yet decided whether it will return to school buildings in August.

Mehlville Superintendent Chris Gaines wrote in an email to parents, “Our goal has always been to have students and staff back on-campus in August. However, given the spike in positive COVID-19 cases in our area over the past week, we cannot say with certainty that we will be in our buildings this August. Instead, we continue to plan for several options. By preparing contingency plans, we can make a decision that is best for our students, staff and community as we approach Aug. 25.”

Instead, the district is still looking for a few more weeks of feedback from parents on what they would like to see in school instruction this fall. Districts like Lindbergh, Fox and Rockwood announced Monday they are planning to return for two days of in-person instruction inside school buildings, with virtual learning the other three days.

But Gaines did not commit to a scenario at the moment, although he hinted that Mehlville might start with the two-days-per-week model too.

“In terms of this continuum of community spread, maybe we have to start with a staggered approach or blended approach — in this model 50 percent of the kids would be present and the other 50 percent would be at home, so it’d be a blend between on campus school and what’s happening at home,” Gaines said.

But no decisions have been made yet as cases change week to week. School is supposed to start Aug. 25 for Mehlville. Some workouts for fall sports were canceled because of an increasing number of cases in the community linked to youth sports.

“We don’t know what things are going to look like in 30 days because if you go back 30 days, we wouldn’t have thought that things are going to look like what they do today,” Gaines said in the video.

Students and parents have two options for the fall, Gaines noted: Regular in-person school or the new virtual school Mehlville@Home, which will be set up like an entirely different school.

Families interested in Mehlville@Home will have to commit to the full semester so that the district can commit teachers to the completely virtual school. For more information on Mehlville@Home, check out The Call’s July 23 print edition this week.

But even for those who don’t want to attend virtual school full-time, school will not just return to normal, Gaines noted.

“On campus, you might think oh, that’s just regular old school — man, we wish it could be regular old school,” Gaines said.

Even on-campus options will be on a continuum.

With low community spread, students might be able to attend school for five days very similar to what they’re used to, with adjustments for COVID-19, Gaines said. The middle option would be the staggered model that Lindbergh is set to start with. Finally, in cases of high community spread the district may go all-virtual again like it did this spring.

But the district will be ready this time around with a more robust online learning program, Gaines said.

“We’d be looking at how we connect with folks in their homes, not like what we did in the spring — that was kind of emergency remote learning,” Gaines said.

Whether virtual through regular school or Mehlville@Home, students will be assessed the same way they would be on campus, the superintendent said.