A coronavirus-induced staffing shortage has led to a mandate change at Springfield Public Schools.
The district on Friday issued an open letter stating all employees and visitors must wear face masks inside district facilities to protect against the latest surge of COVID-19.
SPS, which today is closed in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, returns for in-person classes tomorrow. With the return may come a reduced workforce and fewer students.
District officials in the letter said that on Jan. 14, 20% of the SPS workforce and 19% of the student body were absent.
"On multiple days this week, SPS documented more COVID-19 cases in a single day than the district had experienced in any prior seven-day period," officials said in the letter. "Cases in our community are surging, and as expected, the surge is impacting the learning environment."
The letter indicates "a transition to virtual learning for a limited period of time may be necessary for an individual classroom, grade level or school building" depending on staffing levels.
While students are not required to wear face masks at SPS, it's recommended that they do so, according to the letter.
The district plans to expand COVID testing locations and continue to follow protocols already communicated to families in December and early January. These include requiring masks on school buses.
At local higher education institutions, various masking policies also are in effect.
Officials with Ozarks Technical Community College and Drury and Evangel universities confirmed masking is currently required for employees and students. MSU President Clif Smart wrote in a blog post last week that masking would be required, as well, when students and staff return tomorrow.
A 24-unit building under construction will join six existing buildings this spring at The Foothills Condos at Thousand Hills.