February 1, 2021

St. James R-I School District’s academic year has been primarily defined by the two C’s: COVID-19 and Construction. This article will provide updates about where we stand in regard to the two C’s. 

COVID-19: The COVID-19 numbers from the latest county report have been trending in a promising direction. More good news is that our local counties have finally started receiving vaccine doses over the past few weeks. Although the demand continues to significantly outpace supply, it is exciting to know local residents are beginning to receive their first doses. As of January 31, the share of Missouri residents who have received at least one dose of the vaccine is at 6.4%. The share of Phelps County residents who have received at least one dose of the vaccine is at 5.8%. We are collaborating with the City of St. James in identifying appropriate numbers before we loosen up city and school district restrictions. We are ready to have all students back on campus in all buildings five days a week. We are presently looking at a possible return to full seated instruction at the Middle School and High School on Tuesday, February 16. If our state and county numbers continue to trend in the right direction over the next week and if the health department recommends a full seated return, we will officially make an announcement on Monday, February 8. 

Construction: BRANCO provided their update to the projects at the end of last week. All the contractors’ work is rapidly coming to an end of their scopes. Occupancy of the classrooms appears to be going as planned. There remain a few issues to be completed involving the band room and performing arts theatre. The band room and performing arts area will more than likely  be closed off from students for a few weeks after the other classrooms are opened. If all goes well this week, we anticipate the city will issue a permit for occupancy. If this happens, the plan is to have the downstairs classrooms cleaned with floors waxed and ready for students and teachers next Monday, February 8. The upstairs classrooms will be ready for occupancy on Tuesday, February 16.  

We are optimistic that the worst parts of COVID and Construction are behind us. We are excited to welcome our high school students and staff into their newly renovated building in a full seated capacity. Once we are back to full seated instruction, we will also begin making updates to our present restrictions at ballgames and other extracurricular events. Additionally, we will begin to reconsider allowing outside groups to use our facilities again. Of course, this does not mean we are immediately going back to the way things were pre-COVID. We are just beginning a process to slowly go back to a new normal, which will fall in line with the most recent recommendations from the CDC and the Phelps-Maries County Health Department.  

This has been a frustrating and challenging journey for all of us. We will continue to work on engaging our students to the greatest extent possible under all circumstances. Thank you for your perseverance and collaboration throughout this school year.