KEMP, Texas — A small Kaufman County school district has joined more than a half-dozen others across the state in temporarily shutting down classrooms and campuses to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Kemp ISD canceled classes at all of its campuses for the rest of this week after the first week of school ended with 112 students and 30 staff members testing positive for the virus, according to the superintendent. The entire district has roughly 1,600 students.
“The issue for me was not necessarily that number compared to our total population, but the speed in which the infection spread," said Kemp ISD Superintendent Dr. James Young. He says the school district's own testing identified most of the infections. Kemp High School continues to provide COVID-19 testing as a by-appointment drive-up site.
The temporary closure of campuses in Kemp ISD follows what multiple other small districts across Texas are doing as well. Kennard ISD near Nacadoches announced it is closing campuses and athletic events through September 1st.
The superintendent wrote in a social media post and in a letter to parents that "we have students and staff who are sick with fever, cough, vomiting and diarrhea and our positive COVID cases continue to rise.”
Last week, schools in east Texas, Bloomburg ISD and Waskom ISD closed some of their classrooms temporarily, as did Morgan Mill southwest of Fort Worth. And Iraan-Sheffield ISD southwest of San Angelo remains closed through Monday, where the small community is feeling the impact of COVID too.
“In the last week we’ve seen more COVID cases in staff and students than we did the entire year last year during school," said Iraan-Sheffield ISD Superintendent Tracy Carter.
Keene ISD near Cleburne closed its two Pre-K classrooms for three days last week. The rest of its elementary, middle and high school classes remained open. The superintendent says that all classrooms are in session this week at all grade levels and that they have a total of 15 active COVID cases (13 kids and two staff members) in their district of approximately 1,100 students.
And while schools say they are deep cleaning campuses, superintendents admit the other control measure is the same as if they were battling the flu: shutting down campuses for a while simply to keep the kids and staff away from each other.
“I realize that not everybody agrees with all the decisions we make," Young said. He also said face coverings will still be strongly encouraged when classes resume next week.
"But I would like everybody to know that we are making those decisions with a clear conscience and a clean heart trying to do what we feel is best for the students and staff.”
He says the district is also trying to determine if they will be able to offer a virtual learning option if the cases continue to rise.