After rescinding its mask mandate Aug. 27, Hutto ISD has continued to utilize other COVID-19 mitigation strategies and is preparing to develop a virtual learning program.

Superintendent Celina Estrada Thomas delivered a safety plan update Sept. 8 in which she spoke about district infection rates, safety policies and challenges related to COVID-19.

As of Sept. 6, Thomas said the COVID-19 infection rate in Williamson County is 64.3 per 100,000—down from last week’s figure of 79.7 per 100,000

However, Thomas said the goal is to get the infection rate down to single digits.

As of Sept. 8, there are 19 active staff cases and 154 active student cases in Hutto ISD, she said.

Regarding the updated safety plan, Thomas said students and staff who test positive for COVID-19 are required to isolate and may not return to campus until 10 days have passed since a positive test.

The district has slightly adjusted how it notifies parents when a coronavirus case is reported, and parents will now receive a notification only if someone in their child’s class tests positive for COVID-19, rather than anyone at the campus.

The district is maintaining its restrictions on visitors and volunteers. Visitors are not allowed on HISD campuses except for events such as parent-teacher conferences and parent teacher association meetings.

Thomas said between staff absences and resignations, the district is facing staffing shortages across the board, from teachers to bus drivers to cafeteria staff.

“So far we’ve been able to cover all the absences, but if we get upwards in the range of 30 or 40 vacancies in some of these campuses, then obviously, we’re going to have a problem,” Thomas said.

In anticipation of Senate Bill 15, which would provide state funding for virtual learning, the district is preparing to offer a virtual learning option for students who opt to self-quarantine.

The district will only offer this option to students in kindergarten through sixth grade because vaccination is an option for older students, according to the district.

The school board expects to have more details on the proposed virtual learning program at its next meeting Sept. 23, after which it will send out a survey to parents to gauge interest.