Several San Antonio school districts reported a surge in coronavirus cases among students and staff after the Thanksgiving break, according to state data released Friday.
Texas public schools must report to the state if anyone on the campus tests positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. The most recent data released shows cases reported for the week ending Dec. 6.
Northside Independent School District, San Antonio’s largest, reported 95 more students and 58 more staff members had tested positive for the virus, according to the Department of State Health Services website. That is up from 72 students and 37 staff members who tested positive the week before Thanksgiving.
Most school districts did not report any new cases the week of Thanksgiving, or they reported so few that the numbers were masked by the state to protect students’ privacy.
Northside ISD Superintendent Brian Woods said in an interview last week that the school district of about 103,000 students would wait until after students return from winter break on Jan. 4 to determine if more students will be allowed to switch to in-person instruction. A recent survey showed a small increase in the number of families wanting to send their students back to campus, mostly at the elementary level.
About 40 percent of the district’s students are currently learning in person, Woods said. While he believes schools are safe, he said he is concerned about what will happen over the two weeks of winter break.
“Based on what I know today, school can be a safe place for in-building learners, as long as protocols are put in place and they’re appropriately observed,” he said. “We don’t have data that supports that schools are places where the disease is being transmitted from person to person often.”
With students and staff combined, Northside ISD reported 233 more COVID-19 cases since the district dismissed for Thanksgiving break.
San Antonio ISD reported 38 more students and 37 more staff members had tested positive for the coronavirus the week after Thanksgiving.
Superintendent Pedro Martinez said in an interview last week that San Antonio ISD already scheduled an intersession week for the week following winter break during which schools will remain closed to most students. That week, starting Jan. 4, will allow schools to work with students who need additional academic support and give the district time to see if it’s safe to invite more students back on campus after the break.
“My hope is that positivity rates and cases stabilize in the community,” Martinez said.
About 30 percent of San Antonio ISD’s roughly 46,000 students are currently learning in person.
The rise in cases among students and staff coincides with the increasing COVID-19 cases in the community. Teachers and other staff members have expressed concern about the number of students attending school in person when Bexar County’s school risk indicator hit the high risk or “red” zone last week.
In the red zone, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District recommends families keep their students at home to learn virtually, except for those who are special education students, are struggling with virtual learning, or lack access to the internet and other resources.