Students at St. James R-1 School District's John F. Hodge High School will begin the 2020-2021 academic school year learning in a remote and virtual setting due to safety concerns with the high school's existing roof.

In an update to parents, Superintendent of St. James R-1 School District, Merlyn Johnson, said the construction manager on the district’s high school site recently disclosed safety concerns with the building’s existing roof, which are not part of the district’s current construction projects. 

Johnson said, following a full inspection the week of Aug. 14, it was determined that the roofs above two of the three main hallways must be repaired before students and staff return to the building. Both halls have now been closed due to safety concerns.

“This is extremely poor timing for the start of our 2020-2021 academic school year. Because of this determination, coupled with present social distancing requirements, it is impossible to safely conduct in-seat instruction for all of our high school students,” Johnson said. 

John F. Hodge High School will now begin the 2020-2021 school year using Alternative Method Instruction that will follow the students’ schedule and requires students to learn in a virtual setting. 

Students who do not have adequate internet access at home may report to the high school office at 8 a.m. each morning, Johnson said in his update. Students will be placed in a safe classroom with a teacher. Students will be required to wear a mask and bring earbuds. Students may also bring their lunch, or a school lunch will be provided. 

Johnson said students already enrolled in virtual learning classes will not be impacted by the building's closure. The closure will also not affect students participating in extracurricular activities, since the building’s closure is not a result of COVID-19. 

High school students will be using Canvas, a learning management system to access course materials, while high school teachers will use Zoom to support instruction during remote learning.

Johnson said a return to school date would be announced for high school students once the roof repairs are complete.

Students enrolled in classes at Rolla Technical Institute will still attend class at the institute's building in Rolla. St. James School District will provide transportation for students to Rolla Technical Institute and back to St. James High School. Johnson said students should report to the high school by 8:15 a.m. The bus will leave at 8:30 a.m.

The closure will not impact Lucy Wortham James Elementary and middle school students. School will start as originally planned for all pre-K to 8th-grade students on Tuesday, Aug. 25, Johnson stated.

“The high school administration and the superintendent’s office will keep all students and parents apprised of any changes to these plans during the closure. As always, the health and safety of our students and staff will remain a top priority at St. James R-I Schools. Thank you for your patience and understanding during the many challenges we are facing,” Johnson said.