COVID-19 Cases Shut Down Texas ISD

Empty Classroom
Empty Classroom | Image by WoodysPhotos/Shutterstock

A surge of COVID-19 cases in a South Texas school district prompted officials to temporarily shut its doors.

Runge ISD, a small district of under 200 students, announced the closure on August 21 after 10 of its staff members tested positive for the virus.

Noting that the active cases represented around 23% of the district’s staff, a letter sent out to parents stated that classes would be put on hold until August 29.

“It was a no-brainer that it was in the best interest of keeping everyone safe,” Runge ISD Superintendent Hector Dominguez told KENS5. Dominguez also contracted the virus. “We’re a very small school district, so we don’t have the resources that another large district would have to cover classes.”

Like many school districts across the state, Runge ISD began its new school year two weeks ago. The timing coincided with an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Data from Texas Health and Human Services showed that as of August 21, there had been a week-over-week increase in reported COVID-19 cases of 29.7% statewide.

Nationwide, the COVID-19 variant Eris has been closely monitored by public health officials. Scientifically referred to as EG.5, the variant appears to have the same pathogenicity as other Omicron variants, meaning it spreads easily but is typically associated with mild symptoms.

As reported by The Dallas Express, the uptick in COVID-19 cases has resulted in states and institutions across the country reintroducing COVID-19 rules and vaccine mandates. In response, some Texas leaders are demanding that the state ban such requirements.

A bill introduced during the most recent regular state legislative session by Rep. Brian Harrison (R-Midlothian) aimed to do so, but it stalled in the House.

Prior COVID-19 school closures have been linked to the deterioration of students’ mental health, a spike in classroom misbehavior, and poorer learning outcomes.

At Runge ISD, school leaders have said they will draft a new academic calendar in response to the days lost due to the closure.

Located 73 miles southeast of San Antonio, Runge ISD has enacted a four-day school week, a tactic employed by several rural Texas ISDs to lure in teachers and boost their retention rates, as previously covered by The Dallas Express.

Runge ISD is one of the poorer-performing school systems in Texas in terms of student achievement outcomes. Only 25% of students scored at grade level during the 2021-2022 school year. For comparison, 41% of students at Dallas ISD scored at grade level that year. However, Runge ISD logged a considerably better on-time graduation rate (92.9%) than Dallas ISD, where nearly 20% of the graduating Class of 2022 did not earn a diploma in four years.

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