The path to closure: How Round Rock ISD decides to close a school due to COVID-19

The Round Rock ISD board of trustees discussed the process of closing schools due to COVID-19 cases Nov. 19. (Courtesy Round Rock ISD)
The Round Rock ISD board of trustees discussed the process of closing schools due to COVID-19 cases Nov. 19. (Courtesy Round Rock ISD)

The Round Rock ISD board of trustees discussed the process of closing schools due to COVID-19 cases Nov. 19. (Courtesy Round Rock ISD)

With the closure of Stony Point High School until Dec. 1, students are now at home learning virtually, but many Round Rock ISD parents have been left wondering if more campuses could close.

During their Nov. 19 meeting, the district trustees detailed the decision behind temporarily closing Stony Point due to the number of COVID-19 cases. The closure of the campus was announced Nov. 16 and is slated to continue until Nov. 30.

Who makes the decision?

While the superintendent is the one who makes the final call to close a campus, RRISD trustees said the recommendation to close is based on guidance from the local health department. Beyond health officials, RRISD has teams tracking the latest COVID-19 data and compiling it on the online dashboard.

An epidemiologist is also assigned to monitor the data and spot trends to identify hot spots on campuses. The district’s team also works closely with the Williamson County and Cities Health District and Austin Public Health, which will make the suggestion to close the campus.

While the district is not required to close a campus solely based on the health department's advice, the recommendation is heavily weighted in the decision-making process, according to district officials.

Why did Stony Point close?

Over the Nov. 14-15 weekend alone there were 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Stony Point students and staff. The latest data from the district shows the total number of cases for the school is at 28, of which 21 are students and seven are employees.

According to Daniel Presley, RRISD’s senior chief of schools and innovation, in the past, most cases were related to athletics, but the recent cases on the campus were due to in-class interactions. As the school’s numbers rose to the highest number of cases in the district, the teams quickly made the decision to close.

“This can creep up very suddenly like it did at Stony Point this past weekend,” Presley said.

With the on-campus population at the school around 350 people, the district feared the cases would continue to rise if people were still allowed on campus.

What is a cluster site?

A cluster site is defined as a location where there are five or more linked cases. The cases are tracked to determine the relationship of where the cases are spreading.

In Stony Point’s case it was determined that the cases were spreading in the classroom, making the campus a cluster site.

Will other RRISD schools close?

With many keeping a wary eye on students being off for the week of Thanksgiving, the district is preparing for a potential surge in cases once students return.

While the trustees said ideally, they would like to be able to track the spread over the holiday, they will not be able to pull any data until the break is over.

The next scheduled school board meeting will be Nov. 30. The board members have said they will make any announcements of additional school closures at that time, as well as appointing an interim superintendent.

After the previous RRISD superintendent stepped down, whoever takes on the role in the interim will have a full plate with determining if any additional schools should close based on the data from students returning after Thanksgiving.

"The district will send out a reminder to parents not to send students to school if they develop symptoms over the break," RRISD Associate Director Sharon Wilkes said.

Parents are urged to keep an eye on the district's COVID-19 dashboard, where the latest numbers will be posted every Friday. More information will be released on the district's website, Facebook page and Twitter account once it becomes available.


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