JEFFERSON — Jefferson ISD Superintendent Rob Barnwell announced Wednesday the district will switch to virtual learning only for the remainder of 2020, beginning on Friday, due to a high number of both student and staff absences.

The students will attend on campus classes as usual today and switch to virtual learning from home for the remainder of the year, until students return to campuses on Jan. 6 following the Christmas break.

“An increase in the number of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in Marion County and surrounding areas has begun to seriously affect the students and staff at Jefferson ISD,” Barnwell said in a statement late Wednesday. “Absences have become our biggest issue, and we are experiencing situations in which there are not enough substitutes to fill all the vacancies associated with those absences/cases, which have continually increased over the past several days.”

Harleton High School also made the decision recently to switch to online learning from home for the remainder of this week due to a high number of staff absences.

Many districts recently increased substitute teacher pay in an effort to entice more substitutes to fill vacancies left by teacher absences.

“Although it is widely understood that face-to-face instruction is the most successful method of educating students, we are forced to make the decision to cease normal, on-campus instruction beginning this Friday, Dec. 4,” Barnwell said. “This suspension of on-campus instruction for students will continue until Christmas break. We anticipate a return to normal, on-campus instruction for students on Jan. 6. However, we will still have normal, on-campus instruction tomorrow, Thursday, Dec. 3.”

Barnwell said student involved in UIL and other extra-curricular activities will be contacted by their coaches or instructors about practices, games and events.

Barnwell said the district also has hot-spot devices to loan those students who do not have Internet access at home.

“There may be specific situations or circumstances that requires the utilization of paper/hardcopy work-packets, as needed,” he said. “Please communicate with your child’s teachers and/or administrators if you have questions or need help with anything. Our teachers and staff will continue reporting to work/campus to provide remote instruction for all of our students.”

Barnwell said meals will be provided by the district for students in need each school day.

“Delivery of meals will begin on Monday morning, Dec. 7,” he said. “Those deliveries will be done by utilizing our normal bus routes and dropped off at the routine stops. Expect delivery times to be approximately 2 hours later than the normal (morning) pick-up times. We will also have food available for pick up here at school.”

The school meal pick up times are from 8 to 10:30 a.m. at the high school parent pick up line or the elementary school near the front flag pole.

“Students/Parents from all campuses may pick up from either of these two sites,” Barnwell said.

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