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story.lead_photo.caption Teachers illustrate the average size of a Mississippi classroom and how only 11 students would be able to fit in it during a rally at the state Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Friday, July 17, 2020. The teachers, concerned about returning to school too soon amid rising COVID-19 numbers, are calling for delayed opening of the schools and for the legislature to fully fund education. (Barbara Gauntt/The Clarion-Ledger via AP)

MANCHESTER, Mo. -- Administrators in the Parkway school district in suburban St. Louis spent the summer break crafting a flexible reopening plan, with options that include full-time classroom learning, full-time online instruction and a hybrid system.

It's a good thing, because the dangers of the coronavirus are so uncertain that district officials are reluctant to make predictions about the fall semester, which begins in just five weeks. Confirmed coronavirus infections in Missouri's hardest-hit city waned in June, but they are now spiking, along with hospitalizations. Schools plan to resume classes Aug. 24.

"If you had asked me even two weeks ago, 'Do you think we would be able to come back?' I would have said, 'Yeah,'" Assistant Superintendent Kevin Beckner said. "Today my answer is 'I'm not sure,' just because of how the situation has changed so quickly."

Schools around the U.S. face the same dilemma. With the number of reported covid-19 cases and deaths still rising, districts must grapple with whether to bring students back to classrooms, and how to keep pupils and teachers safe if they do.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

Pressure is mounting in many areas to reopen classrooms. President Donald Trump has urged schools to bring children back to class in the fall and has threatened to cut off federal funding if they do not.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest public school system behind New York City, announced last week that all classes will be conducted virtually when they resume next month.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis noted that many school districts in his state "are going back as planned, as normal, taking the kinds of precautions that health experts and scientists recommend."

In Missouri's St. Louis County, the Parkway district is scheduled to announce its plans for the fall today, but it will stay ready to pivot quickly if the spread worsens or the outlook improves, Beckner said.

"Even if we are able to bring back all of our students, it won't look the same as it was in February," Beckner said. "There will be more hand-washing. There will be more restrictions on how we're able to do things like lunch, like recess."

Signs will encourage social distancing, and desks will be spaced farther apart. Face coverings will be required for all students, instructors and staff. Some teachers will wear masks with clear coverings so students who are deaf or hard of hearing can follow what they are saying.

Times will be scheduled for-hand washing and using hand sanitizer. Plexiglas will separate librarians, office staff and teachers interacting one-on-one with students. A nurse will perform contact tracing on confirmed cases.

In Chattanooga, Tenn., third grade teacher Leigh Grady is preparing to enter both a new school and a new world after a tornado demolished most of East Brainard Elementary in April.

"It's going to be a hot mess express," she said. "I can't even wrap my mind fully around what it's going to look like."

Masks will be mandatory for staff and all but the youngest students. Seating will be assigned on buses, and lunches served in classrooms.

Water fountains will be off-limits, and restrooms will be disinfected "after each class goes as a group."

If a teacher or student tests positive for the virus, schools will close for 48 to 72 hours, and the county is working with a staffing agency to line up substitutes.

If a rise in confirmed cases warrant it, schools will operate under more restrictive measures, with students taking turns spending part of the week at school and part at home.

"All it's going to take is one kid with a positive test, and that will shut everything down," she said.

Information for this article was contributed by Anita Snow of The Associated Press.

Bristol, Va., Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Perrigan shows some of the items that will be used to clean the school throughout the year Thursday, July 16, 2020, in Bristol, Va. (David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier via AP)
Bristol, Va., Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Perrigan shows some of the items that will be used to clean the school throughout the year Thursday, July 16, 2020, in Bristol, Va. (David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier via AP)
Dusty Lego-style toys are scattered in the playground of an elementary school in Los Angeles, Friday, July 17, 2020. California Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out strict criteria Friday for school reopenings that makes it unlikely the vast majority of districts will have classroom instruction in the fall as the coronavirus pandemic surges. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Dusty Lego-style toys are scattered in the playground of an elementary school in Los Angeles, Friday, July 17, 2020. California Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out strict criteria Friday for school reopenings that makes it unlikely the vast majority of districts will have classroom instruction in the fall as the coronavirus pandemic surges. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Superintendent Dr. Keith Perrigan shows the new seating configuration on the school buses for the upcoming school year, Thursday, July 16, 2020, in Bristol, Va. A maximun of 22 students can be on the bus. (David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier via AP)
Superintendent Dr. Keith Perrigan shows the new seating configuration on the school buses for the upcoming school year, Thursday, July 16, 2020, in Bristol, Va. A maximun of 22 students can be on the bus. (David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier via AP)
A sign alongside a playground at Hanna Woods Elementary School in the Parkway School District in suburban St. Louis indicates that the playground is closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Saturday, July 18, 2020. Parkway has formulated a flexible plan to reopen schools when the fall semester begins Aug. 24. Just how bad the virus is at the time will determine if schools open completely, if they mix online and in-person classes, or if they are forced to go strictly virtual. (AP Photo/Jim Salter)
A sign alongside a playground at Hanna Woods Elementary School in the Parkway School District in suburban St. Louis indicates that the playground is closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Saturday, July 18, 2020. Parkway has formulated a flexible plan to reopen schools when the fall semester begins Aug. 24. Just how bad the virus is at the time will determine if schools open completely, if they mix online and in-person classes, or if they are forced to go strictly virtual. (AP Photo/Jim Salter)
Teachers, from right, Jourdan Montgomery and Elizabeth Bradley, both of Jackson, Miss., join a chain of teachers surrounding the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson, Miss., standing six feet apart during a rally in Jackson, Miss., Friday, July 17, 2020. The group, concerned about returning to school too soon amid rising COVID-19 numbers, is calling for the delayed opening of the schools and for the legislature to fully fund education. (Barbara Gauntt/The Clarion-Ledger via AP)
Teachers, from right, Jourdan Montgomery and Elizabeth Bradley, both of Jackson, Miss., join a chain of teachers surrounding the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson, Miss., standing six feet apart during a rally in Jackson, Miss., Friday, July 17, 2020. The group, concerned about returning to school too soon amid rising COVID-19 numbers, is calling for the delayed opening of the schools and for the legislature to fully fund education. (Barbara Gauntt/The Clarion-Ledger via AP)
Bristol, Va., Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Perrigan demonstrates Thursday, July 16, 2020, in Bristol, Va., the temperature scanner that will be used at Virginia Middle and High Schools for the upcoming school year. (David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier via AP)
Bristol, Va., Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Perrigan demonstrates Thursday, July 16, 2020, in Bristol, Va., the temperature scanner that will be used at Virginia Middle and High Schools for the upcoming school year. (David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier via AP)
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