Schools are once again being advised to limit in-person schooling after the local coronavirus positivity rate increased.
Schools are once again being advised to limit in-person schooling after the local coronavirus positivity rate increased. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

As local cases continue to rise, Bexar County Health Medical Director Dr. Junda Woo plans to release a new COVID-19 directive Tuesday that recommends students stay home from school, according to a draft copy of the directive.

Woo also is working to recruit local leaders and organizations to sign a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott, requesting he take steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 by reducing large indoor gatherings of people, including in schools, until the coronavirus is under control, according to a draft copy of the letter.

The letter notes that the statewide COVID-19 positivity rate has increased to 15 percent as of Dec. 2, from 6.4 percent in late September. In Bexar County, school cases have tripled from 42 a week to 127 a week since late September.

“We want our schools safely and consistently open. However, we will not realize this unless COVID is under control. In Bexar County, we are seeing cases increase, and entire classes and athletic teams are forced to quarantine away from school,” the letter to the governor states. “If our fears are realized, the return to school in January may be a very challenging one.”

The letter concludes by requesting Abbott allow school districts to work with local health departments to make decisions based on their own situations, without risking the loss of state funding. Abbott and the Texas Education Agency have mandated that all school districts offer in-person instruction or lose state funding, which is largely based on student enrollment and attendance.

On Monday, Bexar County saw the biggest spike in its coronavirus positivity rate since the summer, jumping from 9.2 percent to 15.7 percent in one week. Officials said this spike is likely just the beginning of increased spread due to gatherings over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Woo’s new health directive states that “in-person learning is not recommended” while the COVID-19 risk level is in the red zone. If it is offered, it should be “highly restricted” to students most at risk for failing or performing poorly via virtual learning. In-person instruction also should be offered only with at least 25 percent of on-campus staff being tested for the disease once a week. Extracurricular activities should be canceled, as well.

Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum is the San Antonio Report's education reporter.