BRYAN, Texas — Milano, Rockdale, Bremond, and Iola are just four Brazos Valley school districts limiting their students’ time in class this week due to an increase in COVID-19 cases. As omicron spreads rapidly through Texas schools, educators are being put in a complicated spot.
“We look at our schools on levels, so it’s like green or yellow, or orange or red," said Dr. Denise Monzingo, Rockdale ISD superintendent. "And so yesterday two of our campuses hit that red level, which is more than eight percent of the students and staff on campus tested positive.”
Rockdale schools shut down Thursday and will be closed Friday. With a national holiday coming up Monday, Monzingo hopes the situation will have improved enough for classes to resume on Tuesday.
Similarly, Iola ISD plans for a shorter week due to COVID-19, scheduling an early release on Friday at noon.
"We started having kids out [sick] on Tuesday, and we’ve been tracking the numbers," said Jeff Dyer, interim Iola ISD superintendent. "Each day it’s increased. So today we have 90 elementary students out, 72 secondary students out, and we have 18 faculty and staff members out.”
Districts like these have built a few extra school days into their calendar years for these types of situations. The districts say they still have a handful of days left in case of another outbreak, otherwise, they would have to start tacking on extra days of class at the end of the semester.
The Texas Education Agency [TEA] declined an on-camera interview with KRHD, but did offer this written comment:
“Districts have to meet the threshold of 75,600 in-person operational minutes, but they have some latitude on how they do that. School calendars are established at the local level and many districts structured theirs in a way that accounts for the possibility of COVID-related closures.”
At this time, the TEA does not offer full attendance-based funding for virtual learning options, though it suggests some alternative funding sources and avenues for school districts to take.
Both Bryan and College Station ISD's declined to comment until the TEA offers updated guidance and protocol.
As of Thursday, Bryan ISD reported 324 active COVID cases amongst students and staff, which is just under a two percent infection rate. For College Station ISD, that rate was just over one percent.