WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas - Williamson County and its seven school districts are taking major steps to slow the spread of COVID-19. With schools closed, some employees will soon be working with the county directly.
Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell and the superintendents from Georgetown ISD, Taylor ISD, Jarrell ISD, Round Rock ISD, Leander ISD, Liberty Hill ISD, and Hutto ISD explained their plans for school closures and additional services that could be made available during the closure, such as meal services.
“In county government, we prepare for disasters often; there are tornados, there is flooding and hurricanes, but it's really difficult for a disaster that you cannot see. We believe the disaster is real and we need to take steps to protect our communities,” said Gravell.
COVID-19 has made its way to Central Texas, causing many businesses and agencies to shut down, at least for now.
Throughout the press conference, county and school leaders even made sure to clean the mic every time someone came up to speak. “At this point, we don't want to have any handshaking amongst our persons as well as keep a safe distance,” said Derrick Neal, executive director of the Williamson County Health Department.
First announced is the closure of schools up through April 3, during this time every school district will still provide breakfast or lunch for the kids. “We are here for our kids, we are here for our communities and we will work through this effectively and things will be great on the other side,” said Georgetown ISD Superintendent Dr. Fred Brent.
While the schools are closed the districts still plan to keep the learning going with report lessons. Georgetown ISD gave some insight on what they will be doing. “We're distributing chrome books to students who need a chrome book, we have well over 100 Wi-Fi hotspots for community members who do not have Wi-Fi access,” said Brent.
The seven district superintendents said they are doing this in an effort to prevent these missed days from having to be made up. “If we all work together for the next 15 to 20 days we will get through this and come out on the other side,” said Taylor ISD Superintendent Keith Brown.
With the schools closed, the county is looking to borrow some of their employees: 15 school nurses will be assisting the county's health department, five school mechanics will be helping with county vehicles, and some school peace officers will be reporting to the county sheriff's office. “they're reporting to the county for service, that's what you do when you have to work together it's collaboration and its teamwork,” said Gravell.
The county also plays to open daycare services for all county employees who still have to work but have kids that would be in school or daycare and can't watch them during these closures. “I still have 911 operators who need to do their jobs but they will lose that childcare and schooldays,” said Gravell.
Williamson County as of Tuesday does not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19.
They say their decision is based on the move from the City of Austin to ban gatherings of 250 people or more through May 1.
The announcement comes after Gov. Greg Abbott said STAAR testing requirements will be waived. On a call with legislators and school officials Sunday, education commissioner Mike Morath said long-term closures are very possible. The decision to close is still up to each district.