Local pandemic statistics are in some cases double what they were heading into the school year compared to this past year as local students head back to class this week.
Krum ISD school opened for the 2021-22 school year Tuesday. Denton ISD will follow suit on Thursday, Argyle ISD on Monday and Sanger ISD on Thursday, Aug. 19.
The primary differences between this school year and last is that the 2020-21 year began with most students learning online, and 2021-22 will see at least a significant portion of adults and teens on each campus vaccinated.
Also different this time around, Denton County Public Health isn’t recommending school districts push back the start of their school year.
DCPH Director Matt Richardson asked local school districts during the summer of 2020 to delay the first day of classes until at least Sept. 8. That recommendation was largely unheeded in Denton County.
“I think at that point we didn’t know what would happen,” he said. “We weren’t sure what the situation was.”
On Aug. 25, 2020, just one day before Denton ISD brought students back to classes, the weekly average of new coronavirus infections was hovering just below 150 daily cases, and the number of county residents concurrently infected was 2,109.
As of Aug. 11, 2021, one day before Denton ISD schools opened, Denton County was looking at just over 378 daily cases, and 5,474 locals were concurrently infected.
At least 634 Denton County residents had died of COVID-19 by Wednesday afternoon. In 2020, the county had recorded only 98 virus deaths by Aug. 25.
By Wednesday afternoon, nearly 60% of Denton County residents 12 or older had been fully vaccinated.
DCPH is following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in recommending masking for all Americans while indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
Denton ISD has shown no public signs of defying Gov. Greg Abbott’s order barring local governments from instituting mask mandates despite impassioned calls from parents calling for universal masking, amid a groundswell of similar actions from several larger school districts.
Denton ISD Superintendent Jamie Wilson, in a text message sent earlier Wednesday morning, said the district won’t defy the governor’s order because it doesn’t have a way to enforce universal masking.
“Trying to enforce such a mandate in defiance of our governor would be virtually impossible and place our educators in an additional confrontational situation,” Wilson wrote.
He called for voluntary masking at several points during Tuesday’s regular school board meeting, but he and other district officials were adamant the district wouldn’t be able to follow other districts in the state in their disregard of the governor’s order.
“We will continue to advocate for local control in our county,” Wilson wrote, “this is just another example of how our state has removed decision making from locally elected officials.”
Assistant Superintendent Susannah O’Bara, speaking during Tuesday’s meeting, told audience members the district will continue to conduct contact tracing for coronavirus infections on its campuses even though the Texas Education Agency no longer requires districts to do so.