Classes in a central Texas school district have been halted after two teachers reportedly died within days of each other of COVID-19.
The Connally Independent School District announced late Monday that, following the death of the second teacher from Connally Junior High, that all campuses will be closed until September 7th as a result, KWKT-TV reported.
Five Waco area schools are now shut down following the death of sixth-grade social studies teacher Natalia Chansler. The 41-year-old teacher passed away on Saturday. Days before that, 59-year-old David McCormick also reportedly died of COVID-19. McCormick was a seventh-grade social studies teacher on the same campus at Connally Junior High School.
Assistant School Superintendent Jill Bottelberghe made the announcement.
“We have not found any correlation [between the two deaths]. They were at two different grade levels even though they worked under the same content area, but we have recognized that there has been an increase in spread as far as throughout our student body at those two grade levels,” she said in a statement.
“Although they were in the same content area, they were at two different grade levels in two different portions, as far as of the building,” Bottelberghe added. It is unclear yet if any extra safety measures will be put into place.
“Any of our staff who’s been identified as close contacts, we ask them to be tested every other day,” Bottelberghe went on to state, then declared, “students will participate in remote conferencing in accordance with the TEA guidelines.”
This news comes as public school districts across the nation are bitterly divided on the issue of mask mandates with many students returning to school this fall after a year spent learning off-campus.
Superintendent Wesley Holt stated that “the closure and holiday break will provide those who are positive with the virus or exposed to others with the virus, the time to isolate and recover. This closure will also allow time for deep cleaning and sanitizing of all CISD facilities.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott twice has ordered mask mandates be banned from school districts. The GOP governor even pushed his own state legislature to make the order a Texas law. Dozens of school districts across the state have refused to comply.
In the meantime, Abbott is struggling to make his case in court while judges have ruled that he overstepped his authority under the Texas Disaster Act. A number of these cases are set to be heard soon by the Texas Supreme Court.
The debate rages on as Texas state Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) is currently pushing a bill barring such face coverings in public schools. And the latest move appears to be a compromise by Leach, who is willing to include the choice for parents to opt-out.
“If a child walks into a school without a mask, I don’t believe it should be the policy of any school district to prevent that child from entering the doors of their public school, especially if they have their parents’ permission to opt-out of that requirement,” Leach expressed.
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