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Central Texas school districts move to virtual learning following increase in COVID cases

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Posted at 6:23 PM, Jan 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 19:35:55-05

WACO, Texas — It's been just days since back to school for central Texas students and staff, but districts are already sending their students back home following hundreds of positive COVID-19 cases.

"I was looking back at some of our line lists and a couple of our campuses hadn't had a case reported since the first week of November," Assistant Superintendent of HR for Connally ISD Jill Bottelberghe told 25 News. "Then we came back and we had 191 cases."

McGregor, Mexia, Buckholts, and Connally ISD have all announced a move to virtual learning, citing "an effort to break the cycle of spreading the virus" and "low attendance rates and staffing shortages."

Bottelnerghe said Connally teachers are working together during the staffing crunch and virtual learning is helpful.

"A lot of our teachers, especially in the younger grades, they partner up," she said. "So, if one teacher is out or ill and unable to participate in remote learning, the other teacher picks up their students and continue. Our teachers do a great job of always planning together."

While the closures have come at the recommendation of the health departments, some parents are more concerned about the effect more virtual learning will have on kids in the long run.

Andrea Nemec has three children at Connally ISD, one of whom is in special education classes. She worries her student won't have the same opportunities virtually.

"A lot of the things they use to accommodate her in the classroom, I don't have those at home," she said. "Virtual learning is very hard for her so it will negatively impact her."

Ambar Martinez is also a Connally ISD parent. Two of her four children tested positive for the virus and she said virtual learning will give them an opportunity to still participate in classes.

"Everybody was able to join in on their zoom meetings this morning so they are still logging in and getting all of their work completed," she said.

Mexia, McGregor, and Buckholts will all resume in-person classes on Tuesday the 18th. Connally students will be back on campus the next day on the 19th.

"It was not an easy decision," Bottelberghe said. "The last thing we want to do is have all of these students on campus, especially with the transmission rates rising so drastically."

25 News reached out to McGregor, Mexia and Buckholts districts for an interview but have yet to hear back.