Teachers at a Galveston middle school were prevented from reporting to their first day of work Monday after an administrator who worked in their building was confirmed to have contracted COVID-19.
Monday was the first day that Galveston Independent School District teachers were to report to work in their classrooms. But on Monday morning, teachers at Collegiate Academy at Weis, 7100 Stewart Road, were relegated to working remotely after an administrator who had been inside the building over the weekend tested positive for COVID-19, school district spokesman Billy Rudolph said.
The school was closed, so the entire building could be sanitized, Rudolph said. Teachers reported to work at the school Tuesday, he said.
The scenario is one that could be repeated in Galveston and other local school districts in coming weeks, as teachers and staff begin reporting back to school for the first time since campuses were closed by the coronavirus pandemic in March.
Galveston Independent School District plans to begin classes via virtual learning Aug. 24. Galveston students aren’t scheduled to enter school buildings until Sept. 21.
Over the next two weeks, the district’s nearly 500 teachers are expected to report to their schools for professional development training ahead of the start of classes.
Even teachers who are working in solely virtual classrooms this school year are required to report to a school building for work, officials said.
The wait to bring students back, which was allowed by state leaders and encouraged by local health officials, will allow infection rates to continue to drop as well as allow the school district to learn how to react to incidents such as the one at Collegiate Academy, said Galveston Independent School District Board of Trustees President Tony Brown.
“We’re going to be in a reactive mode as the virus makes its way through the community,” Brown said. “It’s going to move through the community, and it’s going to show up in schools, when we have staff and students on campus, but we are constantly working with the health district and other authorities to refine and sharpen all practices, so that we can do the best we can to educate children while doing everything we can to keep everyone as safe as possible.”
As of Tuesday, the administrator was the only employee in the school district to have an active case of COVID-19, Rudolph said. Other employees have tested positive at times during spring and summer, Brown said.
The difference now is that people are starting to enter school buildings in higher numbers, Brown said.
Everyone who enters a Galveston Independent School District building must answer screening questions about their potential exposure to the virus and have their temperatures checked, Rudolph said.
The administrator who tested positive for COVID-19 has been quarantined, Rudolph said. The district still was determining whether other people who were in the building in recent days must also be quarantined, Rudolph said.
Guidelines released by the Texas Education Agency last month require school employees who test positive for COVID-19 to stay home until they are symptom-free. The requirements also mandate that schools close off and clean areas used by the infected person.
The district also must inform the local health department, teachers, staff and, eventually, students and their families about the infection.
Brown hoped that students wouldn’t be subjected to sudden cancellations or closures of entire buildings once they begin attending class but acknowledged there were a “whole host of circumstances” that would affect day-to-day decisions at the district.
“I think we’ll have stand-by plans,” Brown said. “It will probably be pretty rare to have a campus as a whole, or even necessarily a classroom as a whole, have to stay home and quarantine. But we’re going to do it if it’s required for safety.”