South County high schools open for the first time since March

Teacher+Samantha+Wanko+talks+to+incoming+kindergarteners+at+Bierbaum+Elementary++in+the+Mehlville+School+District+in+August+about+procedures+and+Chromebook+pickup.+

Teacher Samantha Wanko talks to incoming kindergarteners at Bierbaum Elementary in the Mehlville School District in August about procedures and Chromebook pickup.

By Erin Achenbach, Staff Reporter

With more and more students returning to in-person learning, South County’s public high schools are set to open their doors for the first time since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close.

Schools around South County are welcoming students back to in-person learning as COVID-19 numbers around the St. Louis region continue to stabilize, with St. Louis County Executive Sam Page encouraging districts to look at how to bring more students back into the classroom.

All five South County school districts — Mehlville, Lindbergh, Affton, Bayless and Hancock — now have elementary and middle schoolers back in school at least part-time, with high schools returning in person by next week. All the districts started entirely virtual except Lindbergh, which opened with K-3 in classrooms.

Hancock is bringing back all students for five days of in-person learning, but every other district is still on a hybrid schedule that only brings half the students in each day to allow for social distancing. Lindbergh elementary students will go to five days a week in person starting Oct. 27.

All districts require students and staff to wear masks while attending in-person learning, as well as reviewing a COVID-19 symptom checker every morning before coming to school.

The Affton School District, which was the first district in South County to announce that it would begin the 2020-2021 school year entirely virtual for all students, welcomed back K-8 students Oct. 13 to hybrid learning, with students attending in person two days a week. All students participate in virtual instruction on Mondays.

The district announced Oct. 8 that Affton High School students will return to the classroom for hybrid learning beginning Tuesday, Oct. 27.

Like other school districts across the St. Louis region and in South County, Affton offers an entirely virtual option for families, and those families who opted for the online academy will remain committed to virtual schooling until the end of the first semester, even as other students return to in-person classes.

The Bayless School District welcomed back third through fifth grades Oct. 8 for hybrid learning, with sixth graders returning that day and seventh and eighth grade returning Oct. 13. K-2 came back at the end of September for hybrid.

Bayless High School will welcome back freshmen students for hybrid/in-person learning beginning Thursday, Oct. 22, with remaining high schoolers returning Tuesday, Oct. 27.

The Hancock Place School District, which had hoped to begin the school year with in-person learning five days a week before pivoting to beginning the school year virtually, also announced that high school students would be returning to classrooms Thursday, Oct. 22.

However, unlike the other public high schools, Hancock High School students will be attending class five days a week in person, if they did not opt for the virtual learning option.

Hancock Middle School students returned to in-person learning five days a week Oct. 8, and Hancock Elementary kindergarten through second grade returned to five days a week in person Sept. 17, followed by third through fifth grade Sept. 24.

Hancock has touted the fact that since the district is less crowded than other St. Louis County districts, it is able to bring back students for a full five days a week.

Mehlville will be welcoming back high schoolers for hybrid/blended learning Oct. 27. Students in ninth through 12th grade whose last names begin A-K will attend in-person classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while students with last names beginning with L-Z will attend in person Wednesdays and Fridays. Students will participate in virtual learning on their off days and all Mondays.

Families who opted for virtual academy Mehlville@Home at the start of the year must remain virtual for the semester.