HUTTO, Texas (KXAN) — With COVID-19 cases rising in the greater Austin area, the Hutto Independent School District decided to cancel the last two days of its on-site summer school that was currently in session.
The final two days — Wednesday and Thursday — are not happening anymore, and now the second summer session set to begin July 13 is up in the air.
“While there is no outbreak within Hutto ISD, we believe this decision can certainly help prevent an outbreak,” said Todd Robison, Hutto ISD’s Director of Communications and Community Relations. “Our hope is that the break will allow the cases in the area to subside prior to July 13.”
The district also confirmed a teacher’s aide helping with summer school at Kerley Elementary School tested positive last week for COVID-19.
Robison said the aide had been in a class of four students, and was wearing a face shield while around students. The aide started feeling bad after work, stayed home voluntarily and got tested, according to Robison, and then immediately reported the positive test. The district believes the aide contracted the new coronavirus away from the school.
Robison said a letter was sent to all parents in the school advising them of the positive case, and individual phone calls were made to the parents of the four students the aide had been around to let them know the students would need to be quarantined for 14 days.
“We are not aware of any student from summer school testing positive,” said Robison in an email.
He said all students had their temperature checked when they arrived each day, and they were separated into cohort groups fewer than 10. Teachers stayed with those groups, and food was delivered to the classroom. He said hand sanitizer was abundant and encouraged.
When it comes to masks, Robison said they are not required, but staff and students were encouraged to wear them.
Positive case halts HISD athletic camp
In addition, Hutto ISD said it received notice Sunday night that an athlete, who was part of the district’s strength and conditioning camp June 15, tested positive for COVID-19. He has been quarantining since then. Hutto ISD originally decided to postpone the boys’ camp until June 30, but has now extended it to July 13.
The district joins a growing list of at least seven Central Texas school districts that suspended summer strength and conditioning workouts after reported close contact with COVID-19.
What summer tells educators about the fall
As school districts deal with COVID-19 cases for the first time, they still have no idea what the fall will look like.
“It’s a much easier process when you have a few classes of a small number of kids in one school for a few weeks in the summer,” said Robison.
The fall could be quite the challenge for school districts that choose in-person learning come August.
“It’s very disturbing just the early signs of what we are seeing,” said Noel Candelaria, President of the Texas State Teachers Association. “These isolated cases that are multiplying as more programs within our schools are returning.”
Candelaria believes it’s only going to get worse for districts if they bring more students and staff into buildings.
“We know exactly what it looks like when we pick up a bus full of students, we know what it looks like when kids are transitioning between classes, we know what the spacing in our classroom is,” said Candelaria. “We would need three classrooms just to space out a class of 30, six feet apart.”
Space is one thing, but resources are another. He said splitting children into smaller groups means more teachers and support staff would be needed, along with personal protective equipment to help prevent the spread of the virus.
“We don’t want to be putting our families at risk, we don’t want the students putting each other at risk, and I don’t want to be in a crowded building with 1,400 kids,” said Dan Wright, a special education teacher in the Round Rock ISD and president of Education Round Rock.
Wright, who teaches at Walsh Middle School said he is still waiting to see the district’s plan for the fall, but is not encouraged by the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Williamson County.
“We don’t know what the future holds so it doesn’t really make a lot of sense for us to just jump back in there when the chances are that we will have to again at a moments notice have a shut down,” said Wright.
He’s hoping distance learning will continue when school is set to begin in August to ensure the safety of teachers and students.