Burnet CISD sees uptick in positive COVID-19 cases

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In the past month, Burnet CISD has seen its number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases increase from eight to 34, including 15 currently active cases, Superintendent Keith McBurnett said Monday.

However, McBurnett said, the district has seen “very little evidence of any spread taking place within campuses” and will continue to offer in-person learning to students even as some other nearby school districts — Llano ISD and Fredericksburg ISD — announced Monday they will scale back to fully remote learning.

“Our goal is to keep campuses open and keep the district fully open to the greatest extent possible and to continue to offer parents that choice of having in-person learning, knowing we may have to make adjustments in operations,” McBurnett said.

“We are seeing this uptick, so we are encouraging our students and our staff to practice those COVID-mitigating processes — wearing a face covering and social distancing to the greatest extent possible so we can continue to operate school as normal.”

Since school started the week of Aug. 20, there have been 34 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases impacting BCISD and 85 people have been quarantined due to having close contact with someone who was confirmed

Twenty-six of those positive cases have been seen in the past month, including six cases at RJ Richey Elementary School, five cases at Burnet High School, four cases at Burnet Middle School, two cases at Bertram Elementary, one case at Shady Grove Elementary and eight cases occurring in families with BCISD students. Thirty-four people have been quarantined during that time period.

“Those being quarantined are due to close contact at school, but we have not seen those cases develop into positive COVID cases,” McBurnett said. “I was speaking with our medical advisor (Burnet County Health Authority Dr. Juliette Madrigal) today and she was making the point students are almost safer at school than out in the general public and we have evidence that supports that.

“Dr. Madrigal said she believes school should remain open to the greatest extent possible like we do and she also agrees with the way we are cases.”

McBurnett said Llano ISD had a benchmark of two-percent COVID positivity rate to trigger its decision to only offer remote

“We don’t have a predetermined number or percentage of cases or quarantine that would cause us to go fully remote as a district or at a campus,” McBurnett said of BCISD. “We are monitoring cases very closely every day. We believe it is so important to individually review each positive case and each close contact so that we’re not basing any decision on a predetermined threshhold, but rather the circumstances surrounding those positive cases.

“If you told me we had 10 positive cases on a campus, it makes a difference if those 10 cases are on the same grade level among teaching staff versus spread out among multiple students on a campus that is 500, 700 or 1,000 students.”

Dr. Rachel Jones, assistant superintendent of curriculum, said of the district’s 3,097 students, currently 372 are remote learners, or about 12 percent. Of those, it appears 150 may be “seriously struggling in remote learning full time.”

“They are not on track to promote to the next grade level or are losing graduation credit requirements or have more than seven unexcused absences,” Jones said. “For students who are struggling with remote learning, we now have the ability to discontinue remote learning as an option if we give them two-weeks notice.

“If the student’s parents have a concern and there is a medical need for that student to continue remote learning, they can get a physician to document and approve them continuing to do so.”

Jones said students who are successfully remote learning “can stay remote. We are not going to discontinue that option for those who can do it successfully. This would only be for those who are not logging in and doing the work or who cannot do the work with whatever level of support they get at home.”

“… students are almost safer at school than out in the general public, and we have evidence that supports that.”

— Keith McBurnett BCISD Superintendent