First Day of School

Just before Bexar County officials celebrated the injunction issued by a Texas district judge allowing them to temporarily issue mask mandates, Comal County Judge Sherman Krause said he is following Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on local restrictions. Five Comal ISD schools would fall under Bexar's mandate. MIKALA COMPTON | Herald-Zeitung

Since starting school in August, Comal and New Braunfels ISD schools have both had to deal with outbreaks of COVID — including some campuses reporting large case numbers.

Among those with the highest case numbers for Comal ISD are Johnson Ranch Elementary, Spring Branch Middle School and Canyon Lake High School while in the New Braunfels ISD, the schools with the most active cases are Voss Farms Elementary, New Braunfels Middle School and New Braunfels High School.

Comal ISD as of Wednesday had 609 active cases according to its dashboard totals, with those figures updating daily by 5 p.m.

New Braunfels ISD as of Monday had 191 active cases but only updates its dashboard weekly on Monday.


By the Numbers

In Comal ISD, Johnson Elementary has the most active cases at 72, Spring Branch Middle School has 67 active cases and Canyon Lake High School has 43 active cases. 

In New Braunfels ISD, Voss Farms Elementary has 21 active cases, New Braunfels Middle School has 34 cases and New Braunfels High School has 65 active cases.

Because of privacy protections, districts do not disclose specifics about which people are positives so cases can include students, teachers and staff.  

Some schools list grade levels and how many teachers or students are out, while others just disclose how many positive cases were reported that day.


Following protocols

Comal ISD’s protocols have the district returned to pre-pandemic layouts, but New Braunfels ISD protocols encourage social distancing.

“When feasible, without disrupting the educational experience, students are encouraged to practice social distancing,” according to NBISD’s 2021-2022 Back to School plan.

Some schools in both districts have spread out lunches.  NBISD officials said each campus is managing lunch protocols individually.

“They each have different enrollment numbers, facility designs and capacity issues that would be factors in what they can do with regards to the lunch setup and schedule,” NBISD communications executive director Rebecca Villarreal said.

Comal ISD is also letting campuses determine lunch protocols. 

According to its 2021-2022 Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan, Child Nutrition service will return to “full cafeteria capacity” and visitors are allowed at lunch.

Parents have said that some have lunches in the same hour block while others split up lunch over different times and or have some students eat in the classroom with others in the cafeteria. 

Comal ISD officials referred to its Return to School plan and said all common areas are cleaned on a daily basis with frequent cleaning of commonly-touched surfaces throughout the day.

The district said it will also do scheduled deep cleanings, with regular cleaning and sanitization in classrooms. 

The district is experiencing a staff shortage of custodians, with 144 positions filled, 46 vacancies and two pending approval, said Steve Stanford, Comal ISD’s executive director of communications and government relations.

“To ensure campuses are cleaned and sanitized properly during our staffing shortage, we have custodians from campuses fully staffed seeking overtime that go to the understaffed campuses to help fill the void,” Stanford said in an email.

NBISD also referred to its back to school plan and said it will clean and disinfect throughout the school day in high-traffic, frequently-touched areas such as doorknobs and bathrooms.

Each class will be cleaned and disinfected at the end of the day, and deeper cleaning will occur after each school day and include the use of “electrostatic sprayers.”

These sprayers apply a small electrical charge to aerosols when passing through the nozzle. The droplets adhere and stick to surfaces.

NBISD will also supply additional cleaning supplies to sanitize their spaces. 


Tests and close contacts

According to CDC guidelines, schools should enforce the policy of “staying home if unwell.”

“Waive the requirement for a doctor’s note, create a checklist for parents/students/staff to decide whether to go to school (taking into consideration the local situation), ensure students who have been in contact with a COVID-19 case stay home for 14 days, and consider options for screening on arrival,” CDC guidelines state.

In NBISD, students positive with COVID must remain at home for 10 days from the onset of symptoms or test results.

In Comal ISD, exclusion time for those with positive test results and close contacts will be “determined by a medical provider documentation and/or the local health authority.”

“There is no requirement to quarantine if exposed to a positive individual,” Comal ISD officials said. 

Completing a daily health screener is not required, and the district “highly encourages” each student and staff member to self-evaluate their health each day and remain at home if not feeling well.

Close contacts in NBISD must notify the school and follow CDC recommendation to quarantine for at least 10 days from contact.

In NBISD, anything COVID-related is an excused absence.

Comal ISD students can “choose to self-quarantine,” they may receive an excused absence if the parent provides a “parent note.” 

Eight days of parent note excused absences are allowed per year. Excused absences count against the 90% attendance rule and exam exemptions.

“If a parent opts to keep their student(s) home if they are determined to be a close contact to a household exposure (parent/sibling), they will receive an Excused Absence until a note from a medical provider is provided,” Comal ISD officials said. “These absences would then change to District Excused. These absences do not count against the 90% attendance rule or exam exemptions.”

This weekend: Parents talk about their experiences and concerns since school began and COVID cases climbed.

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