O’FALLON, Mo. (AP) — The Archdiocese of St. Louis announced on Monday plans to resume in-person classes next month even as one area Catholic school deals with a coronavirus outbreak.
At least 19 St. Dominic High School students and two guests tested positive for COVID-19 after attending an outdoor graduation ceremony July 8 and prom July 10, according to the school, in O’Fallon. The school has canceled student activities through Aug. 9.
The announcement of the outbreak came the same day the Archdiocese of St. Louis presented a reopening plan that calls for students who attend the more than 100 Catholic schools in the St. Louis area to return to the classroom starting next month.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis said each Catholic school would follow the guidance of its local government and county health department on issues such as social distancing and other safety precautions.
Each school is developing “individualized plans based on location, enrollment numbers, facility size and design, constituents served, and information from local authorities,” a news release from the archdiocese said. Plans to return to in-person learning could change if the pandemic worsens.
Several public school districts also are weighing whether to return to class as new confirmed cases of the coronavirus rise around Missouri. Many districts are expected to offer parents the option of distance learning if they are uncomfortable sending their children back to school.
St. Louis public school officials said Monday that families there could pick either in-class instruction, virtual learning taught by district teachers or online classes through Edmentum.
Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, has stressed the need to reopen schools and get students back in the classrooms. But on Monday, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, a Democrat, encouraged parents to opt for virtual learning when possible.
“I do believe that school buildings will be as safe for teachers, parents and students as the districts can make them, but my own recommendation is to choose a virtual learning option when that’s available,” Page said at a news conference, citing a big rise in new reported cases involving young people.
Missouri reported 530 newly confirmed cases on Monday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 33,624. The state also has reported 1,132 deaths.
The five highest single-day totals for new cases in Missouri all occurred last week.
Hospitalizations also are on the rise. In the St. Louis area alone, COVID-19 hospitalizations increased to 260 Monday from 238 Sunday. Suspected but unconfirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations in the area went up by 44 people.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that 34 Lutheran schools across the St. Louis region also expect to have students return to campus.