A small school district in West Texas has apparently become the first in the state this school year to temporarily shut its doors due to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in the community.
An official of the Iraan-Sheffield Independent School District, with fewer than 400 students, announced Monday that it will close as of Tuesday and aims to reopen Aug. 30.
“This decision was made to ensure the safety of our students and staff as well as to make certain that we have appropriate staff available for each campus,” Superintendent Tracy Canter said in the statement.
Two small East Texas school districts — Bloomburg and Waskom — also planned to cancel classes at some schools this week due to the coronavirus, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Iraan-Sheffield officials announced in June that they would discontinue virtual learning and wanted kids back in the classroom. In Monday’s announcement, Canter said the district will work with the Texas Education Agency to determine if the district can provide “home support” or return to campus before Aug. 30.
The TEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The district’s back-to-school plan said masks were not required but were strongly encouraged.
Over the last week, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Pecos County, where Iraan is located, have risen from 9.5% to about 14.5% of hospital capacity, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Danny Updike, executive director of the advisory council for the trauma service area that includes Pecos County, said hospitalizations are worse than they were a year ago. Most patients being admitted are unvaccinated, and Iraan has a low vaccination rate, he said.
In some instances, Updike said, patients are being flown to New Mexico or Oklahoma because there aren’t enough beds in the region.
“People need to get vaccinated,” he said. “They think the government’s telling them to do it, and they need to not take that attitude.” — Brian Lopez