San Antonio school districts reported a nearly 122% increase in the number of coronavirus cases among students and staff in the month since they dismissed for winter break, according to an analysis of state data released Friday.
The state data excluded North East Independent School District, which reported no new cases among staff or students from Dec. 20 through Jan. 24, according to the most recent state data available. A Department of State Health Services spokesperson said Tuesday that the department has not received a report from NEISD since December. But district officials say they have submitted case data to the state every week and are unsure why NEISD’s numbers haven’t been included in recent reports.
Texas public schools must report to the state if anyone on the campus tests positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. NEISD, a school district of roughly 60,000 students, reported on its website, that 722 students and 396 employees had tested positive from Dec. 20 to Jan. 24. Including those numbers, NEISD had 1,063 students and 576 staff members test positive in the past month, a combined increase of 215%. That is the highest reported uptick in cases among the 11 San Antonio districts analyzed.
Overall, student cases rose by about 130%, and staff cases jumped 110%, according to an analysis of the data for the 11 school districts.
Northside Independent School District, San Antonio’s largest district with more than 100,000 students, reported 798 students and 549 employees tested positive for the virus between Dec. 20 and Jan. 24. That brought the district’s total case counts to 1,442 students and 980 employees who have tested positive, a combined increase of 125%.
Northside ISD Superintendent Brian Woods has twice urged families to consider temporarily switching their students from in-person to remote learning, as COVID-19 cases continued to rise in San Antonio. He sent a letter to families Jan. 13 and again on Jan. 27, asking families to keep their children away from the classroom at least until Feb. 8.
On Jan. 19, Harlandale ISD Superintendent Gerardo Soto also encouraged families of students receiving in-person instruction to pivot to virtual learning until Feb. 8. Likewise, San Antonio ISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez told families in December that the district would not allow more students to attend school in person until COVID-19 cases began to decline.
Between Dec. 20 and Jan. 24, SAISD reported that 233 more students and 145 more employees had tested positive for COVID-19. That district’s total case count increased by 66%, to 530 students and 399 employees.
In that same time frame, HISD reported that 122 more students and 53 more staff members had tested positive for the virus. That school district’s total case count rose to 245 students and 138 staff members, a combined increase of 84%.
Other school districts with notable increases in student and staff COVID-19 cases include Southside ISD, which jumped 203%, and East Central ISD, which surged 159%.
The rise in cases among students and staff coincides with Bexar County hitting a grim milestone last week, surpassing 2,000 deaths related to COVID-19. One of the recent deaths was Edgewood ISD’s Teacher of the Year for 2019-20, Cynthia Ritz. Teachers and other staff members have expressed concern about the number of students attending school in person since Bexar County’s school risk indicator hit the high-risk, or “red,” zone in early December.
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.