Illustrated is an image showing the ultrastructural morphology of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness now considered a worldwide pandemic.

Rising COVID-19 rates will force Litchfield Public Schools to transition to a distance learning model.

Superintendent Beckie Simenson announced the change in a message to district parents Friday, saying the transition would begin this week, with distance learning actually beginning the Monday after Thanksgiving.

“A growing number of our school employees are being impacted by COVID-19 isolation and quarantine, making it challenging for our school district to support school both with In Person Learning and Hybrid Learning Model,” Simenson’s message said.

The district had 38 staff members out on Nov. 11, 35 out Nov. 12 and 40 out Friday, according to Simenson. Litchfield’s total staff number is 232, giving it an average absenteeism of 8 percent.

In addition Meeker County’s COVID-19 case rate rose to 50.26 for the Oct. 18-31 reporting — a significant jump from the 35.96 rate from the previous 14-day reporting period.

“With the number of community and staff COVID-19 cases and a projected increase over the next several weeks, the district is taking planning actions to transition all in-person and hybrid students to online distance learning,” Simenson’s memo said, adding that the distance learning model will remain in effect through the end of the calendar year.

The transition to distance learning will begin this week with Ripley Elementary students and Cohort A students at the middle and high school doing in-person learning Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday and Thursday, Ripley students and Cohort B of the middle and high school will be in-person learning.

There will be no instruction on Friday, Nov. 20, or Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 23-24, to allow teachers and administration planning for online distance learning. Nov. 25-27 were scheduled as Thanksgiving holiday break days.

Online learning then will begin for all kindergarten through 12th grade students on Monday, Nov. 30.