Schools try and keep up with constantly changing COVID-19 case counts

As new cases of COVID-19 continue to pop up throughout Austin, schools are continuing to wrestle with how to operate safely, but effectively.

For some, at a certain point, it means shutting down temporarily. Cedar Ridge High School was one of the most recent in the region to have to push pause. Round Rock ISD announced Wednesday that the school would go fully remote for a week due to a number of COVID-19 cases reported.

"It was really just the amount of cases that was concerning, and it wasn’t just limited to just one area," said Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, chief of public affairs and communications for Round Rock ISD.

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LaCoste-Caputo said they had been seeing a recent uptick in cases, and then on Wednesday alone they reported 29 positive cases at CRHS. CRHS is expected to open on Thursday, Jan. 28, but school officials will reevaluate closer to that date.

This is the second time Round Rock ISD has had to temporarily shut a school down due to COVID-19. In November, Stony Point High School was shut down for a time.

"Just like any other organization it comes and goes," said LaCoste-Caputo. "We tend to follow the trends you see in the surrounding area."

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Along with Round Rock ISD, schools around the Austin region have been trying to ride the waves day by day.

Del Valle ISD students were told to work remotely through Friday. Austin ISD recommended students to stay home through Friday as well.

The most recent word from Austin Public Health on schools was mixed. "When we look at the positivity amongst our school-age individuals, we can see that there has been a significant drop in the positivity rates," said interim health authority Dr. Mark Escott in a Travis County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday. "Significant decreases, but once again we see our middle age and high school-aged students are outpacing the positivity in the rest of the community."

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Feedback from parents has also been mixed. "It’s very split," said LaCoste-Caputo. "No decision makes everyone happy."


Meanwhile, President Joe Biden wants to reopen schools in 100 days. In his first hours in office, President Biden signed multiple executive orders, some of which increase funding for schools to be used for COVID-related costs and getting teachers vaccinated.

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"I think schools want to be open, and any support we can have from state and federal agencies to make that happen is wonderful," said LaCoste-Caputo. "Really our best-case scenario would be to get our staff vaccinated, all of our teachers, our bus drivers, our food service workers, we're very concerned about them."