Coronavirus

As in-person classes have resumed, some area school districts are seeing COVID-19 infections despite safety measures in place.

Salado Independent School District registered its first known COVID-19 case of the school year after a third-grader tested positive for COVID-19 Monday evening, Superintendent Michael Novotny said.

It was the district’s first confirmed case since Aug. 21.

Novotny said five other students also were placed in quarantine, because of their close contact to the infected student.

“We thoroughly cleaned all the areas involved before school started this morning and have been communicating with all of the parents at the three levels,” Novotny told the Telegram. “We’re doing our best to mitigate (COVID-19) in terms of quarantining students as necessary, thorough cleaning, and communication and transparency with parents.”

Although the county has now tallied 5,113 cases, Health Director Amanda Robison-Chadwell said only a small number of those are new cases. There were 5,019 cases recorded before today’s announcement.

“We prioritize the entry of new cases, but since COVID-19 has been relatively calm in the last several days it has given us a chance to get caught up with the backlog of cases that we received so the majority of the cases for today are attributed to that,” she said. “We can say that the backlog hasn’t had any significant impact on the overall trend.”

There are now 280 active cases — five more than Monday — as at least 4,758 people have recovered to date. The health district also received data for two new fatalities, which brought the death count to 75.

Women continue to account for a majority of coronavirus infections in Bell County with approximately 54 percent, and individuals in their 20s still lead all age groups with 1,135 known cases. The next closest age group are those in their 30s, who are responsible for 930 recorded cases — 18 percent of Bell County’s total cases.

Although Temple ISD’s dashboard did not update by 5 p.m., spokesman Christian Hernandez said the district has yet to record a confirmed case since tracking began on Sept. 8.

“District administration is aware of the delay in today’s dashboard update, but we can confirm that there were no reported cases at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 15,” Hernandez told the Telegram. “We are looking into the cause for the delay to prevent it from occurring again.”

Belton Independent School District — which recorded five cases so far — has three cases at North Belton Middle School and two at South Belton Middle School. The district’s dashboard did not show any new cases Tuesday.

KISD grievance filed

Despite the Killeen Independent School District adding a newly reported COVID-19 case of a staff member, the employee works in a non-campus building, according to the district. Five students and 51 staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus since March 16.

The Texas State Teachers Association recently filed a class action grievance against Killeen ISD. The grievance, which was filed on behalf of the Killeen Educators Association, cited how teachers and paraprofessional members are being forced to work in unsafe environments during the pandemic.

“The safety of the students, the staff and the KISD community must come first,” Rick Beaule, president of the educators association, said in a news release. “This isn’t about whether we want to work. We desperately want to teach our students to be the best they can be. This just can’t happen as we stand right now. Student cases have already begun to rise.

Killeen ISD educators, who began in-person instruction on Aug. 31, are requesting for several of these health-related issues to be resolved.

“Among other requests, the educators ask that the school district provide personal protection equipment for every employee at their campuses; the district suspend on-campus instruction and switch to virtual learning and students to be provided with the necessary equipment; and members who express concerns about school safety to the administration not to be retaliated against,” the news release said.

The Killeen Educators Association said an appeal process will take the grievance to the state education commissioner if Killeen ISD does not handle the issues presented to them.

Other districts

Lampasas ISD had seven students and four staff members test positive since Aug. 10. Lampasas High had two cases, Lampasas Middle had two cases, Hanna Springs Elementary had two cases and Kline Whitis Elementary had one, according to Donna Clark, one of the nurses within LISD.

Gatesville ISD has had six students test positive as well as one presumed positive case, and no staff members have tested positive as of Tuesday. Four have been at the high school, one at the intermediate level, one at the elementary, and one at the primary school, according to Barrett Pollard, Gatesville ISD superintendent.

Bell County’s “level three” threat level will be updated Wednesday afternoon, after the Bell County Public Health District completes their weekly assessment. To improve to the desired “level four” the county needs to maintain a 14-day flat or decreasing trend in new COVID-19 cases and for the number of hospitalizations to improve.

The Bell County Public Health District also noted distribution of a vaccine or treatments to be necessary for a shift in the threat level.

FME News Service contributed to this report.