Texas school district reports rising COVID-19 cases

LIBERTY HILL, Texas (KXAN) — The Liberty Hill Independent School District is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases.

On Monday, 36 new cases were reported on the district’s dashboard, bringing the seven-day total between students and staff to nearly 150.

According to data from 20 local school districts, the COVID-19 positivity rate at Liberty Hill ISD since the first day of school is the second highest in the area, trailing only Lago Vista ISD.

The highest positivity rates among students as of August 30, 2021. (Data: Christopher Adams/KXAN)

Austin ISD, the largest school district in the area, has a positivity rate of .33%, the third best, behind only Manor ISD and San Marcos CISD.

There are a number of reasons that could be leading to high COVID-19 transmission in the greater Liberty Hill area. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus spreads more easily indoors when people are unmasked and unvaccinated.

Masks aren’t required in the school district, however, only recommended. The district says less than 10% of students are wearing them everyday. Even still, with close to 200 active cases currently among students and staff, the district maintains it won’t change its rules on masks.

The district is also not contact tracing, only notifying the campus and people who may be a close contact in the classroom or extracurriculars. Quarantining for close contacts is optional for those people. They are encouraged to wear masks.

A spokesperson for LHISD said the district is closely following Texas Education Agency guidelines, which “are in line with the CDC recommendations.”

Some parents believe the district, despite its growth, still maintains its rural, small-town mentality, which they believe could be responsible for the surge in cases. The district says it added more than 1,800 new students to the district this year, despite most districts in the area experiencing declining enrollment.

“It’s growing extremely fast, we have people in close quarters, there are subdivisions going up everywhere, and even when I go into a gas station in Liberty Hill, I get funny looks, because I’m the only one wearing a mask,” said Shannon Spradling, who has two children at Liberty Hill High School. “I’m just asking for [the district] to take reasonable precautions to protect my children and all of the children that are in their schools.”

Other parents told KXAN they don’t blame the district for having trouble containing the virus. They hope families will be more vigilant in monitoring for symptoms, something LHISD recommends parents do before heading to school every day.

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