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As more teachers get COVID-19, anxiety rises about in-person classes post-Thanksgiving break

District dashboards show that active cases in staff members have risen and most teachers are left with no choice but to return to the classroom.

More teachers than ever had COVID-19 last month at many of the largest districts in North Texas and worry lingers as in-person classes resume post-Thanksgiving break.

Coronavirus dashboards for school districts show that in month-to-month comparisons, active cases in staff members have nearly doubled or more than doubled in some districts. New COVID-19 cases were already on the rise in November but many teachers worry about a spike from the holiday.

Districts reported their highest cases in staff members in November. Some districts have been short on staff as people were forced to quarantine. Some schools moved classes entirely online or tapped into their administrators to help as substitute teachers.

In 20 days, from Nov. 10 to Nov. 30, Dallas ISD reported 473 new cases which account for 38% of the district’s total cases for the school year.

At Frisco ISD, there are more active cases in staff members than cases in students on campus, the dashboard showed Tuesday.

At Fort Worth ISD, there were 1,183 staff members who reported COVID-19 from Nov. 2 to Dec. 1. However, a month earlier, from Oct. 5 to Nov. 1, there were 661 cases reported in staff members.

At Lewisville ISD, there were 39 staff cases from Sept. 21 to Oct. 23 and 184 staff cases from Oct. 26 to Nov. 29.

There won’t be a clearer picture of the holiday’s impact until later this week, and teachers are worried as students return to class, said Rena Honea, president of Alliance AFT, the local affiliation of the American Federation of Teachers.

“People being out for a week and not sure who they were around. Were they social distancing? Were they wearing masks? It’s very worrisome," Honea said. 

The Association of Texas Professional Educators said more than 6,000 teachers participated in a survey that said their mental stress and anxiety are at an all-time high due to returning to school this semester.

With the winter break coming in a few weeks, cases could rise even more. Honea said many teachers have underlying health conditions. 

“It’s an atmosphere of fear, anxiety, worry, in the midst of having to deliver quality education to the kiddos," she said. 

Most teachers are OK being in the building if the students are learning virtually. 

“It’s not that educators don’t want to be with the kids, but they also want to be safe," Honea said. 

She urged decision-makers at school districts to follow what the science and medical community is telling them.

"We need to be open to what is best and what is safest," Honea said.

RELATED: 'It's terrifying': Physicians, parents weigh potential risks of returning to school after Thanksgiving holiday

Since Nov. 1 in Dallas County, there have been 3,630 cases in school-aged children and 466 cases in staff members reported from over 632 kindergarten through 12th-grade schools, health officials said Monday.

Earlier in November, Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD moved all students and staff at Chisholm Trail High School to fully online because 450 people needed to quarantine.

The district’s dashboard shows that cases at the district have more than doubled month-over-month.

September cases
In-person staff: 15
In-person students: 26

October cases
In-person staff: 32
In-person students: 62

November cases
In-person staff: 92
In-person students: 162

Active cases among staff members have grown in other major districts as well. This week, deadlines are approaching in many districts for allowing parents to switch their child’s mode of instruction.

The dashboard data shows that staff members with active cases are at least half or more than the student cases.

Plano ISD active cases as of Dec. 1
Staff: 48
Students: 69

Frisco ISD active cases as of Nov. 30
Staff: 81
Students on campus: 50

Arlington ISD active cases as of Dec. 1
Staff: 44
Students: 78

Garland ISD active cases as of Dec. 1
Staff: 101
Students: 175

Lewisville ISD active cases as of Nov. 30:
Staff: 43
Students: 61

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