CHAPEL Hill, Texas (KETK) – The omicron variant of COVID has been causing some East Texas school districts to make difficult decisions on whether or not to shut their doors.
Some districts have closed schools for extra days around the Martin Luther King holiday.
Chapel Hill ISD was the first East Texas school in 2022 to bring back mask mandates which violate Greg Abbott’s executive order. At the start of the 2021/22 school year, several schools were sued for requiring masks. Now, districts are trying to find a way to continue classes without turning to virtual learning.
“We are basing all of our decisions on data and our local health experts,” said Belen Casillas, the Chapel Hill ISD communication director.
CDC guidelines have continued to evolve making it hard to know what you need to do when you are sick or what type of mask is best. Campuses have found it hard to keep up
“Since school started this year I have done 2,600 tests. Yesterday alone I did 86 tests and one of my other schools did 98. So in one day, we do a couple hundred tests through the district,” said Patricia Mitchell, Chapel Hill ISD nurse.
Student and teacher COVID cases have been on the rise causing school closings.
“Since we have been back we have had pretty high numbers, which is what implemented the re-masking. The last time we had large numbers we did a mask mandate and it takes about a week for the mask to kind of catch up with people already having symptoms, but within a week we saw a drastic drop and then the entire time had the mask mandate we had very low cases,” said Mitchell.
Chapel Hill ISD hopes to keep as many people healthy and in school. In addition to their mask mandate, the campus will offer COVID testing daily.
“We do daily, we offer it for any staff member or student that has been exposed or has symptoms. We do drive-up testing. So we do the best we can with the resources we have to protect the students and then the community,” said Mitchell.
The school said the protocols used at the beginning of the school year led to a decrease in positive COVID cases. Once there is a significant decline in cases, Chapel Hills ISD said they will look into lifting the mask mandate.
Chapel Hill ISD, along with other school districts around East Texas, will keep an eye on the growing omicron variant situation and will do everything they can to protect their students and staff.
Other schools that have implemented a mask mandate in 2022 are Wiley College and East Texas Baptist University.