DENTON, Texas — The Denton Independent School District started class on Aug. 12 and had less than 10 reported cases of COVID-19 after the first two days, school officials said.
By the end of that first week, the district's case count grew to nearly 100.
Two weeks later, the district of about 35,000 students is now averaging more than 60 cases per day.
The increased spread among students and staff was one factor Superintendent Jamie Wilson listed in a letter to families about the district's new mask requirement.
The temporary requirement begins Thursday and remains in place until local hospitalizations and cases slow, according to Wilson's letter.
Masks will be required inside all Denton ISD buildings for students, employees and visitors.
"We know the best place for most students to learn is in-person and on campus," Superintendent Jamie Wilson said in the letter. "We must take the steps necessary to not only keep our students and staff healthy and safe but also to learn in person with our highly-skilled teachers."
Wilson asked parents to help the district make sure students wear a mask.
"Our teachers will need your help," Wilson said. "Each one of them will now be tasked with ensuring our students wear face coverings while in class and when keeping a physical distance is not possible. We believe it is our responsibility to use every tool available to protect our students and staff."
The Delta variant has fueled a surge in COVID-19 cases across North Texas. For the whole region, known as Trauma Service E, there were 51 available ICU beds as of Tuesday, according to the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council.
Denton County had 180 COVID-19 patients hospitalized and four ICU beds available as of Tuesday.
The Garland Independent School District was another larger North Texas district to add a mask requirement this week. The Garland requirement for indoors will go into effect Sept. 1 for students, staff and visitors. The district plans to keep the requirement in place through Oct. 26.
Exemptions for medical, religious and philosophical will be allowed, similar to the mask policy in the Plano school district.
In Garland schools, there were 659 active cases among students and 64 active cases among staff, as of Wednesday, according to district data.