"We began having conversations in July about, ‘Well if we don't do some things differently within our community we may not get to open schools.’ And immediately we saw what we could do as a community," Null said. "We’re kind of at that point again now, where we need to rededicate ourselves to doing all those right things so that we can see numbers drop and we can continue to have schools open. That’s our goal.”
Null's online address came days after the district reached a new daily high in COVID-19 cases reported among students with 30 logged Nov. 16. Despite the recent increases of cases in the district and COVID-19 hospitalizations throughout Montgomery County, Null said the district is not considering closing schools as coronavirus spread in classrooms has been limited this year.
While Null said on-campus measures such as mask-wearing, testing, contact tracing and quarantining appear to have proven successful so far, he asked members of the district community to make safe choices regarding off-campus activity that could spread the disease—especially ahead of the holiday season.
"I think we can all understand that at some point we’re going to start spreading it in the school if we don’t bring less infection in," Null said. "We have to make decisions not just at school but in our personal lives that are going to help keep school open. That’s inconvenient; it’s not fun; you’re sick of COVID; I’m sick of COVID. ... We’re all ready for this to be over, but we all have to understand that it’s not over yet.”
The district also reached a new high in the number of students absent due to COVID-19 isolation or quarantine this week with a total of 1,042 reported Nov. 18. The district tracks isolations among those who tested positive for the disease, while quarantines are utilized for anyone identified as a close contact of those who tested positive. Null credited that recent increase as a positive sign of the district's tracing and response efforts as local active cases rose over recent weeks.
"You look at our quarantine numbers, they are certainly increasing, and they’re fairly high; that’s because we’ve done what I believe to be a really good job of testing in our community, contact tracing by our staff here in Conroe ISD, and it’s proven to be working," Null said. "There’s a reason why we’re not seeing spread in our schools because we’re doing all those things correctly.”
Null was also joined on the livestream by Dr. Charles Sims, Montgomery County's public health authority, who echoed Null's support for the district community's efforts in limiting coronavirus spread through mask-wearing and other sanitary measures this year. Sims said while the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine is likely on the horizon, wearing masks on CISD campuses continues to be key in maintaining in-person activities.
“For the most part, there has not been a case in a structured classroom,” he said. “That shows that the process works, and it also shows that our staff, students and teachers are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing.”