Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect new Austin ISD data on the number of tests and percent that were positive.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — The rush is on to test Austin Independent School District students and staff for COVID-19 before they return from winter break Jan. 5, but even after about 15% of 1,400 tests came back positive Monday, superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde said students are headed back to class.
“We will continue to utilize the data and science to make decisions, but at this point, we are not ready to go to a virtual option,” Elizalde said in an interview with KXAN.
In an update Tuesday, the district said COVID-19 testing on both Monday and Tuesday produced a 14.5% positivity rate. Austin ISD said it tested a total of 2,639 students, staff and family members over the two days, which yielded 384 positive test results.
Elizalde said the school district will continue requiring face masks for everyone on campus and the safety protocols, like air purifiers in every classroom, will continue.
“We are following what we did in the opening in the fall, except we are very well aware we have to monitor even more closely because we do realize how contagious this variant is,” she said.
Elizalde said the week prior to the break, AISD had an “all-time low” in a district of 75,000 students and nearly 12,000 employees with 46 COVID cases districtwide but said while the safety measures seem to be working, she’ll make the tough call if she has to.
“I will not hesitate to close down a classroom or a school should our cases present themselves in a way that is not safe. We will absolutely take the action necessary,” she said.
The district said COVID-19 testing is available in all school health rooms for any student or staffer, regardless of symptoms. AISD has 11 testing sites throughout the district set up through a third-party vendor. They’re open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Those locations are listed online.