Hutto ISD closing all schools Tuesday and Wednesday due to staff out with COVID-19

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The Hutto school district is closing all campuses through Wednesday because so many teachers and staff are absent amid the latest wave of COVID-19 cases.

On Friday, 200 staff members were out, including 160 with confirmed positive COVID-19 cases, according to the district. More than 1,680 students also were absent, including 545 with confirmed positive cases.

"Despite our best efforts to deploy central office staff and all other available personnel to keep our campuses operating safely, the number of staff who are out with COVID-19 has overwhelmed our school district," Superintendent Celina Estrada Thomas said in a Friday afternoon announcement.

A total of 137 teachers were absent Friday, according to a district spokeswoman. Thirty-six of the positions were filled with substitutes, but 90 of the positions were unfilled. Eleven positions didn't require substitutes.

Students and staff will return to campuses Thursday, after staying home Tuesday and Wednesday, in addition to Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, a school holiday.

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High school athletic activities will continue as scheduled "as long as coaches and students are healthy," Estrada Thomas said in the announcement.

"Our goal with closing for two days is to allow time for our staff and students to get healthy enough to return to teaching and learning," she said.

The school district does not require masks, citing Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order banning mask mandates in schools. But district leaders "advocate for and strongly encourage all staff and students to wear a mask when indoors and when the recommended 6 feet of social distance cannot be maintained," according to the district's safety plan.

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Estrada Thomas said remote or virtual learning was not an option for the district because the state has stopped funding remote learning for all students.

"It is only available for students who are out sick with COVID-19 or are out for extended periods," Estrada Thomas said.

The Hutto school district appears to be the second Austin area district to temporarily shut down. On Friday, Marble Falls closed all its schools because of staff shortages.

Smaller school districts across Texas have begun temporarily shutting down or closing schools as COVID-19 case numbers grow and top the totals seen last winter.

At least a dozen school districts in North Texas have announced closures, as have some districts in West Texas and East Texas. In South Texas, the Laredo and United school districts will shift to remote learning next week, according to letters sent to staff.

The Hutto school district northeast of Austin serves more than 8,400 students at eleven campuses, according to its website. It employed nearly 1,200 full-time employees in the 2020-21 school year.

The district previously canceled its bus routes because there were not enough available bus drivers. Transportation services for most students are scheduled to resume Thursday with modifications, Estrada Thomas said in the announcement. Affected families will be notified, she added.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Hutto ISD closing schools Tuesday, Wednesday due to staff shortages

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