WACO, Texas (KWTX) – Local school district are maintaining, and in some cases expanding, pandemic protocols in the New Year amid the surge of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
“Obviously our concerns are heightened a bit,” said Alice Jauregui, Executive Director of Communications for the Waco Independent School District.
While Omicron has local school districts on-edge and officials crossing their fingers it won’t reverse the progress that’s been made to keep schools open, Jauregui says at Waco ISD they feel prepared.
“We do feel that we do have a strong plan in place and will continue to do everything we can to keep our students and staff safe,” said Jauregui.
It’s a “plan” school district like WISD had to create in the Spring of 2020 when the pandemic hit, forcing schools to shutdown and, later, offer virtual learning.
Waco ISD is one of several local school districts which, despite Texas’ ban on mask mandates in public schools and lawsuits form the Texas Attorney General, required students to wear masks during the first half of the school year.
The district will continue it’s mask mandate into 2022, officials say, while expanding COVID-19 testing.
“All of our students and faculty are wearing masks in the classroom and all of our building facilities, also, we have on-going vaccination clinics that will resume when school starts again,” said Jauregui.
While COVID-19 testing remains a challenge nationwide, Central Texas school district officials say, going into the New Year, they’ve got it covered.
WISD is even offering testing before school resumes Jan. 4.
”We are offering two drive-through testing opportunities for students–and anyone who wants to take a test–prior to school starting,” said Jauregui. “Those are both going to be held at the Waco ISD Stadium on Sunday, Jan. 2, from 12-6, and on Monday, Jan. 3, from 8am to 5pm.”
The return to Texas classrooms in2022 could come with a holiday cost.
According to state data, Texas public schools reported a jump in COVID-19 cases during the first week of December after the Thanksgiving holiday.
Local doctors say they’re already seeing an impact from the Christmas holiday.
”We’ve seen a slight creep up just in the last few days of hospitalized kids, and that relates to the transmissibility of Omicron,” said Dr. Dominic Lucia, Medical Director at McLane Children’s Hospital.
Lucia says, while the COVID-19 vaccine might not be the key to stopping Omicron from spreading, it will prevent the severity of it.
“Your risk of getting it, no matter your age, is very high right now bc it appears to be very, very transmissible,” said Lucia.
“When you’re talking to kids about getting the vaccine: it’s not just about them, it’s about missing important occasions if they feel bad or test positive.”
Midway ISD and Copperas Cove ISD will continue to offer COVID-19 testing for students and staff, according to officials.
KWTX reached out to Killeen ISD for the district’s plans in the New Year but did not hear back.
Statewide, according to the latest numbers released Monday, newly confirmed COVID-19 cases have hit 15,000–triple the amount reported Dec. 17.
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