Less than a month into the new school year, North Texas school districts are reporting thousands of new cases of COVID-19 among students and staff, as some have to forget about campuses in response to the increase.
According to an analysis of the latest Texas data released Friday, some districts in the area have a higher number of cases in the state.
More Texas students tested positive for coronavirus last week than during the previous peak of the 2020-21 school year.
Schools across the state reported that about 52,000 students had tested positive this school year, according to data released Friday. The state reported 148,000 cases of positive COVID-19 students last year. About 5.4 million students attend Texas public schools.
In North Texas, the growing number of cases caused school districts to be closed on campuses.
The Dallas Morning News analyzed COVID-19 cases from North Texas school systems reported through Aug. 29 and found that Garland ISD recorded the highest number of 1,306 among students since the start of the school year.
Garland ISD reported the fourth-highest number of student cases in the entire state, according to data from the Texas State Department of Health Services. The district started school before most nearby systems and most cases are related to home exhibits, spokeswoman Caren Rodriguez said.
Garland’s patrons approved a mask warrant that went into effect Sept. 1, providing exemptions available for medical, religious, and philosophical reasons. During an Aug. 24 board meeting, Health Services Director Renee Kotsopoulos told the community that it appeared the number of new cases was stabilizing and the district did not see a sharp increase.
GISD has implemented a system that adjusts safety and health protocols based on the percentage of a student on campus with a positive COVID case. For example, when positivity rates violate 3.4%, campuses begin to limit capacity for indoor and outdoor events. Access to campuses and district facilities is restricted to essential visitors only.
Frisco reported cases of younger students (573) in North Texas during the week ending Aug. 29. This equates to almost nine new cases per 1,000 students. Frisco ISD enrolled about 64,000 students as of January 2021.
Frisco ISD reported a total of 1,020 student cases as of Aug. 29, which ranks sixth compared to districts across the state.
According to the Frisco website, the district does not require masks but suggests them to everyone regardless of vaccination status. On Aug. 30, the district updated its health protocols “to highlight requirements and best practices,” spokeswoman Meghan Cone said.
Cone noted that Frisco’s cases appear to be on the decline; the district tracks a moving average of 7 days of new cases daily based on the date of onset of symptoms or a positive test. That average peaked on Aug. 27 and has dropped 32 percent since then as of Sept. 2, Cone said. The average, which includes cases of both students and staff who were on and off campus, decreased from 115 to 78.
The news’ the analysis explored which districts reported the most cases per capita, which used to be smaller, more rural districts.
Kemp ISD, a school district of 1,600 students located in Kaufman County, reported the newest student cases per 1,000 students in 42.33 cases.
The district closed all of its schools Aug. 25-27 because of the increase, Superintendent James Young said earlier. The campuses reopened on Monday, August 30 after all facilities were disinfected. Kemp does not require masks on his campuses.
Kemp officials did not return any requests for comments in time for publication.
Godley ISD, located in Johnson County, has reported the total number of COVID-19 cases per 1,000 students since the school year began in 38.13 cases. The district of 2,600 students added 43 new cases last week, bringing the total to 95.
Godley officials did not return any requests for comments in time for publication.
Stay connected to what’s new in education subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
The DMN Education Lab delves into coverage and conversation on urgent educational issues that are crucial to the future of North Texas.
The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, supported by The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, The Meadows Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network , Southern Methodist University and Todd A. Williams Family Foundation. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of Education Lab journalism.