ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. ( -- Due to an outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, all students at Parkway North High School moved out of classroom learning beginning Thursday. 

The district said it is investigating a large student party that took place last weekend, as most of the new COVID-19 cases can be linked back to the event. There are no plans for students to return to in-person learning until Monday, March 29. 

As of Thursday afternoon, the school is reporting 15 students have tested positive for COVID-19, with another 90 currently in quarantine. According to the district, North High has 519 students learning in-person, with an overall enrollment of 1,110. About 40 percent of students are learning virtually.

On Wednesday, the district said 161 students, about 31 percent of all in-person students, were absent from school. Reasons vary from a positive COVID-19 test, quarantine, showing symptoms or overall health concerns.

About 20 percent of the school's in-person students have been identified by the county health department as a close contact and are under quarantine.

Sierra Dickerson, a senior at Parkway North, said she's frustrated with the situation.

"I heard rumors going around that kids were starting to come down with it," she said. "It was inevitable it was going to happen again, but I was hoping we could get through the last quarter in person."

Dickerson said the coronavirus has already cost the senior class rites of passage like homecoming, awards ceremonies, prom and others.

"I want to be in school," she said. "I do a lot better in school than out of school."

Becky Dickerson, Sierra's mom, said she's worried about her children's mental and emotional health.

"We've been waiting for her senior year forever and just to know she doesn't get to do the things the seniors get to do is devastating," she said.

Students will do asynchronous learning Thursday, meaning materials will be available online for them to access whenever they can. Beginning Friday, they will move to fully remote classrooms with teachers online and follow their normal school day schedule. 

All events, after-school activities, athletics and practices are canceled through the end of the closure.

Parkway Schools said throughout the school year, Parkway North has trailed other schools in the number of COVID-19 cases and exposures. Aside from the apparent current outbreak, the district said it is reporting only six students with COVID-19 across its 27 other schools.

In the Rockwood School District, more than 15,000 students are learning in-person four days a week. A district spokesperson said there are only 4 cases of COVID-19 among students, two cases at a middle school and two cases at a high school.

All districts said they depend on cooperation from students and parents to take necessary safety precautions outside of school in order to continue in-person learning.

"I think our students, in large part, are very motivated to do that," said Amy Wehr, Supervisor of Wellness and Health Services in the Rockwood School District. "They want to participate in sports and their activities and school, that social life for them."

In the Mehlville School District, nearly 8,000 students attend in-person learning varying days of the week. Beginning March 9, the district plans to bring high school students back to the classroom four days a week. Currently, 11 students have COVID-19, with 143 in quarantine. 

"Behaviors off campus often lead to more cases," said Superintendent Chris Gaines. "In turn for us, it means requiring more kids to stay off campus."

Districts credit mitigation efforts, such as masks, social distancing and keeping a close eye on student health. In previous years, if a student complained of a cough or headache, they may be given ibeprofen or Tylenol and sent back to class. Now, school nurses are more inclined to send students home out of an abundance of caution.

"Keeping the sick kids out of school is critical," said Wehr. 

The Francis Howell School District has been taking part in in-person learning since August. It released the following statement:

"We have been fortunate to have in-person school since August. We are following the same protocols that are typical in other school districts: mandatory face coverings, social distancing to the extent possible, staying home when sick, and quick and accurate contact-tracing. Like other districts, we monitor our COVID numbers daily and are prepared to take appropriate action when and if needed. Fortunately, we have not been faced with a decision to close a building. If that were to change, we would work collaboratively with our local health department to determine the right course of action. We continue to thank our students and staff for taking the protocols seriously, both inside and outside of school."

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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