Joplin and McDonald County on Thursday joined a growing list of area school districts announcing closures until next week due to widespread absenteeism of students and staff.

The Joplin School District canceled all classes for Friday due to staff shortages, administrators said. The day will be made up May 25.

“We are extremely proud of our Joplin team for making the best of what has been a difficult week,” school officials said in a message sent to local media and parents. “Buildings will undergo deep cleaning and sanitization before classes resume Tuesday, Jan. 18.”

Student and staff absenteeism has been growing throughout the week in Joplin schools. The district said 17.5% of students and 15% of staff were absent Wednesday, up from 16% of students and 11% of staff Tuesday.

The McDonald County School District also announced Thursday that it would not be in session Friday because of “a rising number of our staff and students being out of school because of sickness.”

The district will switch to a virtual learning day, and students will receive instructions on how to access the online learning platforms from their teachers, according to a statement from a spokesman.

“We are considering this a wellness day, and our custodial staff will be onsite cleaning and sanitizing the buildings across the district,” the statement says.

School districts that had previously announced closures or have pivoted to remote learning until next week include Webb City, Carthage, Neosho, Sarcoxie and East Newton in Southwest Missouri; Pittsburg, Galena, Riverton and Baxter Springs in Southeast Kansas; and Miami, Quapaw, Commerce and Grove in Northeast Oklahoma.

Most area school districts have said a combination of illnesses, including COVID-19 and flu, likely is to blame for the absences. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been rapidly increasing across the state as the highly contagious omicron variant sweeps through.

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Emily Younker is the managing editor at the Joplin Globe. Contact: eyounker AT joplinglobe DOT com.