Texas School District Closes After Two Teachers Die Of Covid In Same Week

Photo: Connally.org
connally junior high

Connally Independent School District in Waco, Texas, has closed all five of their schools on Tuesday after the death of two teachers.

The tragic loss of these teachers, who both died of COVID-19, represent the ongoing crisis facing our educators as the pandemic continues to put school staff and students at risk.

Two Texas teachers died of COVID amid growing concerns in schools. 

On Saturday, Natalia Chansler, 41, a sixth grade social studies teacher at Connally Junior High School died after contracting the virus.

Her death came just days after the seventh grade social studies teacher at the same Connally Junior High, David McCormick, 59, died of COVID as well.

RELATED: 3 Florida Educators In One District Die Of Covid-19 Complications Within 24 Hours

The Texas school district decided it would close the schools until after Labor Day weekend following the deaths of the two teachers. 

COVID restrictions in Texas schools are minimal.

Under Texas law, there are few mandates that protect teachers and student in schools. 

According to Connally ISD's ‘Back To School Guidelines,’ masks are suggested, but not mandated “in adherence to GA36.”

GA36 is Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order that bans "governmental entities and officials from mandating face coverings or restricting activities in response to the Covid-19 disaster.” 

It’s unknown if either teacher had been vaccinated or not, as the guidelines state that vaccines are also not required, but are highly recommended as long as the recipient is eligible.

COVID cases are still rising in the Connally Independent School District.

Considering the school has had 51 confirmed COVID-19 cases since classes began Aug. 18, it was a good idea to close down schools.

Assistant Superintendent Jill Bottelberghe said Monday that more cases had been confirmed in the last few days, but she didn't know if any have been directly traced back to Chansler.

"We have not found any correlation" between the two deaths, Bottelberghe said. "They were at two different grade levels even though they worked under the same content area, but we have recognized that there has been an increase in spread as far as throughout our student body at those two grade levels."

In a Monday email, Wesley Holt, Superintendent of the CISD, said the hope "is that the closure and holiday break will provide those who are positive with the virus or exposed to others with the virus, the time to isolate and recover. This closure will also allow time for deep cleaning and sanitizing of all CISD facilities."

Another school district close to the CISD in Axtell, Texas, decided to close its doors as well.

The school district’s superintendent Dr. JR Proctor reported that they are experiencing the highest surge of cases since the pandemic began, and as such would close their school for four days starting on Friday.

“I would urge you this weekend to exercise as much caution as possible when surrounding yourself with people whose health status is in question,” Proctor said in a message to parents.

“I would also urge you to be very careful hanging around with anyone that says they have allergies or a sinus infection, due to the fact that an overwhelming majority of our positive cases have begun with similar symptoms.”

Schools and afterschool programs would resume on Tuesday of the next week.

RELATED: 700 Kids Quarantined Just One Week After School Starts — Now Arkansas Governor Regrets Mask Mandate Ban

Texas has been severely impacted Delta variant of Covid.

During the Delta variant wave of outbreaks, Texas has seen a large increase in cases over the last month, averaging over 16,000 cases and 200 deaths per week, according to The New York Times.

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Texas makes up almost 10% of all the COVID cases in the country, sitting 3.6 million total cases compared to the United States’ 39.3 million.

Despite the increasing number of cases, and even contracting the virus himself, Abbott signed another executive order this time prohibiting vaccine mandates and vaccine passports.

The Texas Governor tweeted about ‘improvement’ on the 29th of August, citing hospitalizations being on a decline for a 3-day streak, the lowest number of positive cases since August 9th, and boasting a large number of vaccinated Texans.

This Tweet was quickly criticized by other users, saying “Can’t hospitalize people if there are no beds,” referring to the ICU bed crisis and calling out the number of new positive cases after they skyrocketed the next day.

As the Delta variant ravages the state, the school district closures are the best that they can do at the moment with mask and vaccine mandates being prohibited, but should teachers have to suffer because of the Governer's inaction?

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice and politics.