LAGO VISTA, Texas (KXAN) — Many Central Texas school districts are set to go back to school Tuesday after the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday but hundreds of Lago Vista students won’t be.
Lago Vista Middle School and Lago Vista High School will remain closed to students Tuesday and Wednesday due to increased staff absences, the district announced Monday, telling KXAN the reasons include positive COVID-19 cases, other illnesses and family emergencies.
Johnson City ISD also said it would not be returning after MLK Day due to too many staffers being out sick with COVID-19.
“Despite our best efforts to keep our campuses appropriately staffed to ensure adequate supervision and safe operations, the number of staff absences is greater than the number of available substitutes and staff members needed for coverage,” Lago Vista ISD officials said in a release.
Ali Benefield, who has two Lago Vista high schoolers, said it wasn’t shocking, considering other districts have had to do the same and bus service interruptions already starting.
“Things were not running as smoothly as they normally do in the district, so there was a little writing on the wall,” Benefield said.
She also said both her freshman and sophomore had teachers absent last week; her daughter had three in one day.
Lago Vista ISD said while it can’t fill all the gaps, it will still provide virtual and in-person tutorials for middle and high school students.
“I invite each and every one of you to tune in to a Google Meet for that teacher at that particular time that you would have that class,” said Stu Taylor, Lago Vista High School principal, in a video message to students Monday afternoon.
The district said staff will still report to campus on Tuesday and Wednesday, and some will be shifted to help teach at elementary schools. Others who have bus driver licenses will help fill those staff shortages, it said.
Lago Vista ISD officials said secondary campuses are able to close during the two-day period, because they have longer school days, so the extra minutes have provided the district with wiggle room to be able to cancel class and still meet the required instructional minutes for the year, as established by the Texas Education Agency, without putting state funding in jeopardy.
But some leeway on attendance may be coming. On Thursday, the TEA said because of the COVID-related declines in attendance, it’s “exploring options” to make sure schools don’t face “financial difficulties.”
The district said extracurriculars will continue, as long as those staff members and students stay healthy.
Benefield said she’s concerned about pandemic learning loss and already feels her high schoolers are behind from previous school shutdowns, but she thinks the school district is handling the problem as best it can.
“They’re keeping the elementary open. I think that’s the smartest thing, because that’s what would impact the community the most is if all those parents had to take off work,” she said. “High school kids really can fend for themselves for a day or two.”
Benefield said her kids, on the other hand, were excited about having another two days off.
“I was out with my freshman daughter buying gear for softball tryouts, and it came in and automatically there were gleeful, joyful exclamations from the passenger side of the car,” Benefield said.
Students in grades 6-12 in need of meal services will be able to pick up meals at Lago Vista High School from 7:30-9:30 a.m. during the two days. Meal services requests can be submitted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This isn’t the first time Lago Vista ISD has been impacted by COVID-19. Last fall, high school students shifted to online learning on Sept. 8 and returned on Sept. 13.
At the time, the district said there was an increase in positive cases and a limited number of students.