The 2021-2022 school year has barely begun for many Texas school districts and already, there are at least four that have sent kids home and shut down campuses due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
The Iraan-Sheffield Independent School District, located a little over an hour outside of Midland, Texas, announced on Monday it would be closing down schools and quarantining students and staff for two weeks.
Bloomburg ISD, near Texarkana, closed Monday for the remainder of the week “due to the number of staff members out with COVID,” according to a post on the district’s Facebook page.
It’s the same reason that Waskom ISD cited when district officials announced its campuses would close through the end of this week as well.
Last week, Benavides ISD in Duval County closed school doors for three days and restarted the school year Monday after learning of positive COVID-19 cases at its secondary school.
With COVID-19 experiencing a third wave largely due to the delta variant, many districts are still modifying protocols and strategies as they hoped to be starting a “normal” school year.
According to Texas Health and Human Services, there are more than 207,000 reported active cases in the state. Bexar County is reporting more than 22,000 cases -- a number that is second only to Harris County with more than 37,000 cases.
With state funding tied largely to in-person attendance, school districts in Texas are in a pickle when it comes to mitigating COVID-19 cases on campus. The Texas Education Agency only recently added some flexibility for remote learning, allowing each regular student up to 20 cumulative days of remote education over the school year if a student has a temporary medical condition. After 20 days, the school must get a waiver to continue remote instruction. Unlike last year, virtual-only instruction isn’t an option for this school year.
Masks remain a topic of controversy and stress for school districts with a volley of court rulings in recent days affecting the legality of mandates.
Several counties, including Bexar, recently issued health directives requiring masks in schools -- in opposition of Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order. On Sunday, The Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of that order, but on Monday 57th Civil District Court Judge Toni Arteaga ruled in favor of Bexar County. The ruling grants a temporary injunction that prevents the enforcement of Abbott’s executive order so Bexar County’s health directive remains in effect. As a result of the back-and-forth, some local school districts like North East ISD and Alamo Heights ISD have said they will continue to encourage but not mandate masks. The San Antonio ISD took the opposite approach and declared mandates of its own, not only requiring masks for staff and students but also requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees by Oct. 15.