School face mask (copy) (copy)

Red River Valley schools have been back in session for about two weeks, returning to in-person learning amid the latest surge of Covid-19 cases. The more contagious delta variant combined with Gov. Greg Abbott’s anti-mask mandate fueled fears that the respiratory disease would hit schools hard, especially after outbreaks in Mississippi schools led to temporary shutdowns.

To date, one Red River Valley school district has shut down a campus because of Covid-19 spread. All districts are reporting active cases among students and some staff.

In a letter Monday, Clarksville ISD Superintendent Kermit Ward said Cheatham Elementary School would be shut down for this week as seven teachers are out due to district mandated quarantines because they share a home with a family member who has tested positive for Covid-19. Several students from the school also were sent home. The closure will push Cheatham’s last day to June 3. The middle and high schools will remain open, and they will finish May 26, Ward said. Clarksville ISD had mandated masks to be worn by students and staff through at least Friday.

With 69 student cases and 13 staff cases by Tuesday morning, North Lamar ISD had the most number of cases among the Red River Valley school districts. Of those, 14 students and five staff members had recovered, according to the district’s Covid-19 Resources webpage. The hardest hit campus was the high school with 36 student and three staff cases, followed by Stone Middle School with 15 student cases and one staff case. No other campus had more than eight cases total, according to the district’s data.

Like North Lamar, Paris ISD is reporting cases via its own Covid-19 Resources webpage. As of Tuesday, the district reported 25 total student cases and four staff cases. Of those, two student and two staff cases were considered recovered, according to the district’s data. Paris High School had the highest number of student cases at 12 with one staff member case. The campus with the next highest number of student cases is Aikin Elementary with five and one staff member case. No other campus had more than two student cases or one staff member case, according to the district’s data.

Paris ISD is the only district in Lamar County to require students and staff to wear masks, which it did by incorporating masks into its dress code. The Board of Trustees has said the addition to the dress code is temporary and will be revisited at monthly meetings.

In response to an inquiry by The Paris News, Chisum ISD Superintendent Tommy Chalaire reported four active cases among students with one case each in the middle and high school and two cases in the elementary school. Eleven elementary students were in quarantine, as required by the Paris-Lamar County Health District’s guidelines for close contact with Covid-19 cases without masks or vaccinations. One student was quarantined from the middle school, he reported.

And Prairiland ISD Superintendent Jeff Ballard on Monday reported two active staff and four active student cases. He did not specify which campuses the cases attend.

Elsewhere in the Red River Valley, Rivercrest ISD Superintendent Stanley Jessee confirmed four active student cases in his district. Three of the students are from the elementary campus while one is a high school student. Cooper ISD Superintendent Denicia Hohenberger reported there were seven active student cases in her district, a number that’s less than 1% of the student body. She did not specify which campuses the students attend. And Detroit ISD had five confirmed active cases on Monday, according to Superintendent Kathie Thompson.

“We have a few more that are out or getting tested, but at this time we have five,” Thompson said in response to a Paris News inquiry. “We are not seeing large numbers on any one campus.”

At Honey Grove ISD, there were nine active student cases and no staff member cases on Monday, Superintendent Todd Morrison reported. In a letter last week, Morrison informed parents Honey Grove ISD would implement a two phase Covid-19 safety measure plan that includes a phase that’s activated when there are seven lab confirmed active cases. In that phase, all faculty will wear masks. In the second phase, all students and staff from first grade up will wear masks. That phase is activated when there are 10 active lab confirmed Covid-19 cases, according to the letter.

“This strain is very active,” Morrison wrote. “We are implementing safety measures to keep staff and students safe.”

Klark Byrd is the managing editor of The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6960 or klark.byrd@theparisnews.com.

Managing Editor

Klark Byrd is the managing editor of The Paris News and the editor of Paris Life Magazine. He resides in Paris with his wife, Krystle, and their three children, Charlie, Annalise and Willow.

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