Education leaders in rural communities stuck in a political tug-of-war over mask mandates

“If our children get sick, where are we going to turn to, you know? San Antonio’s full,” one parent says

Rural communities like Uvalde and Medina counties are seeing a surge in COVID-19 infections. School districts are already reporting multiple COVID-19 cases in the first few weeks of school, some almost double what they saw all of last school year.

Hondo, Tx – Veronica Cuellar, a Hondo ISD parent, is worried about sending her two kids to school as the COVID-19 infection rates keep going up in the county.

“He sits in a desk with six children, with half of them not even wearing masks. The teachers are not wearing any masks at all,” she said.

Cuellar said she’s frustrated that people are choosing not to wear masks and that schools aren’t making it mandatory to protect children.

“If our children get sick, where are we going to turn to, you know? San Antonio’s full,” she said about the hospital capacity.

KSAT checked with school districts in Uvalde and Medina counties to find out how many COVID-19 cases had already been reported since school started, and how many total cases there were last year.

Here’s what we found:

  • Utopia ISD has 9 total cases this school year so far.
  • Sabinal ISD has 20 total cases and had 13 in the previous school year.
  • Knippa ISD has 37 total cases this school year so far.
  • Uvalde CISD has 44 cases this school year (the number reflects the cases that occurred during extracurricular activities starting August 2nd.) Last year there were 163 cases total.
  • Hondo ISD has 5 cases this school year so far.
  • Natalia ISD has 3 cases this school year so far.
  • Devine ISD has 22 cases this school year so far.
COVID-19 cases in Medina and Uvalde County school districts (Copyright 2021 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

Superintendent Richard Grill with Sabina ISD said his best tool is trying to educate parents and the community while hosting vaccination clinics to keep numbers low.

“Please reconsider these matters, because the lowest common denominator from last year to this year is masks. We didn’t have vaccines last year, as we do now,” Grill said. “I think it’s pretty simple, wearing masks and quickly quarantining people put a stop to the spread.”

Dr. Jared Reading, with the Uvalde Health Authority, said in his conversation with area school leaders there are concerns and frustration. He asks that those who can get vaccinated, that everyone wear masks and keep children home if they are sick.

“Right now with COVID-19, if your kid is showing any signs at all, don’t send them to school. And frankly, until you know that it’s not COVID, you shouldn’t even send their siblings to school.”

Medina & Uvalde County area school districts. (Copyright 2021 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

More on KSAT:

Comal County hospitals feeling strain of third COVID-19 wave

About the Author:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.