It announced last week that students, staff and visitors would have to wear masks in all schools and district buildings when in-person classes resumed on Tuesday after the scheduled Labor Day holiday.
“As educators, it is our duty to keep our students safe and healthy. We feel instituting a mask mandate is a step towards doing this,” Connally ISD Superintendent Wesley Holt said in an email to parents and employees.
Holt’s email also included a letter Connally ISD received from Waco-McLennan County Health District which said the spread of Covid-19 in the county “continues to accelerate at an alarming rate.”
Last week, the county saw the highest numbers of new daily cases, daily hospitalizations and daily deaths due to Covid-19 than at any point during pandemic, the letter said.
“We are at a critical point for hospital capacity and must take action to curb the spread of this disease. The most effective way for you to have an immediate impact within your schools is to drastically increase the use of facemasks,” the letter said.
Two social studies teachers at Connally Junior High School died last month after testing positive for Covid-19. Seventh grade teacher David A. McCormick, 59, died on August 24 and Natalia Chansler, 41, died on August 28, according to the district.
During the closure, the district provided counselors to help students cope with the loss of their teachers and facilitated testing for students, district employees and the community.
“Nearly 600 people participated in the two-day event with an overall positivity rate of 16.3%. Many of those identified as positive for the virus were asymptomatic,” Holt wrote.
The district said it also deep cleaned and sanitized all of its buildings.
The health district said that at the beginning of this school year children aged 17 or younger made up 24% of Covid-19 cases in the county. That’s compared to 8% of overall cases at the start of the 2020-2021 school year.
Health officials also said the vaccination rate of eligible children who are 12 years old or older “is extremely low.”
Connally ISD is encouraging staff and eligible students to get vaccinated and has scheduled a free vaccination drive in the high school gym on September 13.
Correction: An earlier version of this story gave the wrong name for the county where Connally ISD is located. It’s in McLennan County.