Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said the district does not have evidence of internal transmission of the coronavirus on campus. However, due to community feedback and evidence that some students were interacting outside of the school day, the district chose to close the school for three days.
“It really was out of an abundance of caution,” Elizalde said. “Visiting with Austin Public Health they were still feeling like you really could keep it open.”
The campus’s closure was announced in a Nov. 14 letter to parents by Principal Amy Taylor, who said the school has seen a gradual increase in cases. Classes will be held virtually as the campus is closed through Nov. 18, and voluntary rapid tests were offered Nov. 16 for those who had been learning or teaching on campus.
Elizalde said there were more than 250 tests administered at the school Nov. 16, and four came back positive.
“All of that was good, supporting information that we did not have a rampant case of COVID throughout the school,” she said.
Testing at Austin High will continue over the next two days, but Elizalde said at this time, she believes the school will reopen Nov. 19. She said the school would remain closed if future test results indicated that there had been internal transfer of COVID-19 at the school.
The closure of Austin High comes after a week in which Austin ISD saw a 42.11% increase in COVID-19 cases compared to the week prior. AISD saw 54 new cases from Nov. 9-15, compared to 38 new cases from Oct. 31-Nov. 8, according to a Nov. 16 presentation to the district’s board of trustees. Since Sept. 8, the district has had 171 cases.
"That is, unfortunately, in alignment also with what [Travis County] and the city [of Austin] is also experiencing," Elizalde said.
The number of students on AISD campuses has also increased in recent weeks. According to the district as of Nov. 9, 40% of elementary students have been on campus, compared to 16% when in-person instruction began Oct. 5. In middle schools, 19% of students were on campus Nov. 9 compared to 9% on the first day. At the high school level, there were 9% of students compared to 4% on Oct. 5.