New Waverly ISD

When classes resumed at New Waverly ISD, they did so at near full capacity.

With less than 20 percent of its students opting for remote instruction, the rural school district found itself unable to provide proper social distancing — especially at its high school. Now, two and a half weeks after classes restarted, district officials will be transitioning its entire high school student body back to remote instruction for at least five instructional days.

“With this situation we are seeing a spike contained to only one campus,” NWISD Superintendent Dr. Darol Hail said.

Dr. Darol Wells with the Walker County Health Authority provided the recommendation to the district, which has confirmed positive COVID-19 cases with seven high school students and two high school employees over the past week.

“It’s not as much the numbers, but the time period,” the superintendent added. “You don’t want to boil this down just to numbers, but you want to look at the numbers within a timeframe. The nine cases over a longer period of time would be considered less of a hotspot.

“Our situation is a perfect storm, because we have a concentration of cases on one campus in a short period of time.”

Hail told the New Waverly ISD board that the district has been conducting contract tracing on all positive COVID-19 cases to determine any individuals that are classified as close-contact. He said that at least 20 individuals at the high school have been instructed to self-quarantine due to close-contact.

For at least the next five instructional days, high school students will not be allowed on campus. All activities, including varsity volleyball and football competitions, will also be canceled. Hail said that most high school students have been issued a computer and Wi-fi device, but the district is still awaiting for some devices to be delivered.

Students at the junior high, intermediate and elementary school will continue in-person instruction.

The superintendent noted that a deep cleaning will take place at the high school during the closure, but said that teachers would be able to access their classrooms.

At least 1,838 community cases and 12 deaths have been verified by the Walker County Office of Emergency Management, since the pandemic began in mid-March. County health officials noted that nearly 15 percent of all local community cases involve a person under the age of 20. The city of New Waverly and Walker County Precinct 4 also account for nearly 9 percent of the county’s case total.

The true number of cases in Walker County is likely higher because many people haven’t been tested and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and can be fatal.