Nearly 40 Texas school districts have asked to halt in-person learning for 5+ days due to COVID-19 cases

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The list of Central Texas school districts closing campuses due to rising COVID-19 cases is growing longer by the day.

Monday, Llano ISD decided to go back to 100% virtual for the rest of the week leading into the Thanksgiving break.

Over the weekend, Austin ISD halted in-person learning at Austin High School due to a rise in cases. It’s the first campus AISD has closed.

Austin High COVID testing 111620
Line for rapid COVID-19 testing outside Austin High School on Nov. 16, 2020 (KXAN Photo/Ed Zavala)

The district went a step further and offered free, drive-thru rapid COVID testing outside the campus in central Austin. The line remained long from noon to 3 p.m.

“I’m glad to see that people are taking it seriously,” said Kirsten Nottleson, who drove her child to the school to get tested.

The testing will be offered again Tuesday and Wednesday by appointment only.

Austin ISD Director of Health Services Alexandra Copeland said the decision to close the campus was a proactive step.

AISD updates its COVID-19 dashboard every weekday at 1 p.m. When the district updated the numbers Monday afternoon, Austin High went from 13 to 16 total cases. The new exposures jumped from 0 to 307.

“It has been a controlled outbreak to two isolated groups, and there also has been no evidence of transmission or spread on the campus,” said Alexandra Copeland, AISD Director of Health Services.

Results from Monday’s drive-thru testing will be available Tuesday, according to AISD. District officials will then consult with Austin Public Health to decide if the closure should stretch beyond Wednesday.

Rising cases in schools is not just a big city problem. Rural school districts like Fredericksburg, Llano and Blanco have reverted back to remote learning.

Blanco ISD Superintendent Clay Rosenbaum said his district went from one COVID-19 case in 12 weeks, to more than 10 in the last week—mostly among staff at its one elementary school.

In addition, around 20 staff members had to quarantine, which he said took its toll on overall staffing in a small district with about 1,000 students.

“We just felt like we needed to stay ahead of it,” said Rosenbaum. “And our responsibility is to keep our kids and our staff safe.”

Rosenbaum said the timing leading up to Thanksgiving break is a bit of a blessing. It will allow staff and students time to quarantine, and hopefully come back healthy.

But health experts also worry the holidays could lead to a spike in new cases.

“That is a concern across Austin-Travis County, especially for our schools,” said Copeland. “And we just encourage people to make sure that they are following health and safety measures outside of school.”

Statewide COVID-19 school closures

KXAN asked the Texas Education Agency for a list of districts that have had to close campuses after opening for in-person learning. The agency said it only tracks those who have asked for permission to close longer than five days.

This is a list from the TEA, which includes districts that have closed all campuses or just some campuses:

  1. Big Sandy ISD
  2. Blanco ISD
  3. Bronte ISD
  4. Coleman ISD
  5. Connelly ISD
  6. Danbury ISD
  7. Del Valle ISD
  8. Dilley ISD
  9. Eden ISD
  10. Elysian Fields ISD
  11. Great Hearts
  12. Honey Grove ISD
  13. Hurst Euless Bedford ISD
  14. Jacksboro ISD
  15. La Academia de Estrellas Charter School
  16. Lockney ISD
  17. Loop ISD
  18. Manor ISD
  19. McDade ISD
  20. Natalia ISD
  21. Nocona ISD
  22. Ore City ISD
  23. Palestine ISD
  24. Panther Creek CISD
  25. Pilot Point ISD
  26. Pro Vision Academy
  27. Rappaport Academy
  28. Richland Springs ISD
  29. Tarkington ISD
  30. Troupe ISD
  31. Victoria ISD
  32. Waco ISD
  33. Waller ISD
  34. Westwood ISD
  35. White Deer ISD
  36. Yantis ISD

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