With rising COVID-19 cases locally, school districts are moving forward cautiously, especially after the recent temporary closure of Highland Lakes Elementary School in Granite Shoals.
The Marble Falls Independent School District campus expects to reopen Monday, Aug. 30.
Burnet Consolidated ISD Superintendent Keith McBurnett said his district is monitoring cases.
“… Like all school districts, we are experiencing an increase in positive COVID cases compared to last year,” he stated in a news release. “Our goal is to keep our campuses open to the greatest extent possible.”
On Wednesday, Aug. 25, just seven days after classes began, MFISD officials announced the closing of the Granite Shoals elementary school due to a number of cases on campus.
According to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard, the campus had 29 confirmed cases as of Aug. 25; all of those were reported Monday through that Wednesday.
MFISD Superintendent Chris Allen said the campus was closed due to the number of staff who tested positive and had to quarantine, making it difficult to operate the school.
“That was the biggest issue at Highland Lakes Elementary,” he said.
McBurnett agreed, saying that school closures could come if a large number of staff contract the virus.
“We know that the probable cause for any future campus closure in Burnet CISD would most likely be due to not having enough staff available to safely or efficiently operate a campus due to quarantine,” he said.
Nether superintendent had concerns about a particular campus. They both frequently monitor case numbers across the district. Each district updates its COVID-19 dashboards daily. The BCISD dashboard is also online.
The dominance of the highly contagious delta variant of the virus has health and education officials concerned. While face coverings are allowed, neither BCISD or MFISD requires them per Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order that does not allow public school districts to mandate masks. Several Texas public school districts are requiring students to wear face coverings, despite the governor’s order, and the state has asked courts to strike down the districts’ mandates.
MFISD officials will consider two metrics in determining whether to close a campus: the infection numbers for staff and those for students, Allen said. The decision could rest on one or the other or a combination of both.
When a staff member is absent, districts can turn to substitute teachers, but that’s not a cure-all, especially during a pandemic.
“We have a number of great substitutes, and we’re always looking for more, but when you have a number of staff out at the same time for COVID, it puts a lot of pressure on the system,” Allen pointed out. “Plus, not everyone is excited to substitute on a campus where there’s a number of positive COVID cases.”
While not required, a good step in slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is wearing a face covering, officials reminded.
“The number of COVID cases we’ve seen combined with the choice many are making not to wear masks is putting us in a somewhat tenuous situation,” Allen said.