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Two North Texas School Districts Report COVID Cases on the First Day of In-Person Classes

Contrasting backpacks and facemasks are all the rage this year.EXPAND
Contrasting backpacks and facemasks are all the rage this year.
Lauren Drewes Daniels

Students in both Mansfield and Lewisville school districts returned to in-person class Tuesday with backpacks and face masks ready. That same day, parents were notified of positive cases of COVID-19 on campuses in both districts.

Mansfield has an enrollment of more than 35,000 students and 4,542 staff spread across 46 campuses. All MISD students started online learning on Aug. 12 and were given the option of moving to in-person or continuing with virtual instruction starting Sept 8.

By the final school bell at the end of the first day, emails arrived in parents’ in-boxes alerting them of COVID-19 cases at their students' campus.

In part, the emails read: “We wanted to make you aware that at least one or more cases of COVID-19 has been identified in individuals at Ben Barber/Frontier.”

Ben Barber is a career tech center that offers classes to students from around the district. Frontier is a STEM high school with less than 200 students. The schools share a campus.

Mobile high school health screening before an extracurricular practice.EXPAND
Mobile high school health screening before an extracurricular practice.
Lauren Drewes Daniels

MISD has created a web page to track COVID-19 cases within the district. Data include the number of lab-confirmed positive cases for both staff and students by campus. According to the tracker, as of Sept. 9, there were 13 active staff cases, 17 recovered staff cases, six active student cases and one recovered student case.

Student cases are identified as those attending in-person learning and those participating in MISD extracurricular activities. According to their Campus/Facility Response Rubric, risk categories include three levels: Low risk includes under 3% confirmed cases of campus population, Moderate is 3 to 5% and high is 5% or higher.

In all scenarios, the classroom(s) the student or staff member was in must be closed for 24 hours and cleaned, and contacts are to be excluded from the building for 14 days. If tracing is not possible, administrators should, according to the rubric, “consider closing a section of the building for 24 hours or until the school has identified close contacts.”

It’s only after two or more linked cases where tracing is possible and involves more than 5% of students or staff and “extensive exposure” that the campus will consider a 14-day building closure.

Hope Boyd, director of communications and marketing with MISD told the Observer Wednesday that they wouldn't go into details about cases but offered, “Mansfield ISD sends communication to campuses/facilities once we are notified of a lab-confirmed positive case for a staff member or a student. It does not mean that the individual contracted COVID-19 on that day.”

Boyd explained that Tarrant County Health will follow-up to contact trace with the individual.

When asked specifically if other students or staffed were exposed Boyd responded, "In the letters sent out yesterday, there was no exposure to other students or staff members on campus."

NBC

reported

that a student at Flower Mound High School, which is part of Lewisville ISD, tested positive for COVID-19. Like MISD, Lewisville also returned to in-person learning Sept 8. Per the district’s guidelines, anyone who had prolonged exposure to the individual will be notified.

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Lewisville has assigned a Level Orange disease activity level to start the year. Protocols for this “high risk” level include designated entry points, guided traffic flow and face-covering checks for everyone entering the building. Plus, hand-sanitizer kiosks are at all entry points to facilities that must be used upon entering every building and class.

The schools will have staggered releases from classes and restricted restroom use during passing periods.

A handful of other districts are starting in-person classes this week, including Frisco, Plano, Coppell, Garland, and Richardson. McKinney and Allen started last week. Arlington and Grapevine-Colleyville and HEB are scheduled for Sept. 28. Dallas and Fort Worth will reopen the week of Oct. 5.

Just before the school year's starting, the state required all public schools to report lab-confirmed COVID cases weekly to the Department of Health and Human Services. 

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