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Comal ISD Trustees Give Teachers Five More COVID-19 Sick Days, Thank Administrators for Pandemic Efforts

Comal ISD COVID-19 case data for Aug. 11-Sept. 17. Image courtesy of Comal ISD.

Despite a “lot of background noise” about the impact of COVID-19 on Comal ISD schools, trustees said they approve of the way Supt. Andrew Kim and district administrators are handling the pandemic.

At their monthly meeting Tuesday, trustees heard from Ruby Moseley, Comal ISD executive director of Safety and Student Support, who outlined possible measures the district could take if outbreaks worsen in the future.

She said Comal ISD reported 1,497 positive cases of COVID-19 from Aug. 11 to Sept. 17, most of them closed out within the last 10 days. Case counts were closer to the 200 mark over the last two days. There are currently 383 active (26%) and 1,104 closed (74%) cases.

There are 27,124 students enrolled in the district.

“No campuses crossed the three-percent mark in comparison to overall enrollment,” Moseley said.

The district tracks cases by feeder patterns to “see the ebb and flow within family units,” she said.

Current active cases (383) by feeder:

  • Canyon High School – 85 out of 8,297 students
  • Canyon Lake High School – 67 out of 3,401 students
  • Davenport High School – 30 out of 3,522 students
  • Pieper High School – 71 out of  5,200 students
  • Smithson Valley High School – 136 out of 6,704 students

Protocol adjustments recommended by Moseley include:

  • Clarification about attendance coding
  • Evaluating additional eating spaces
  • Campus event planning considerations (spacing, arrival/dismissal, RSVP/capacity considerations)
  • Minimize shared materials when possible
  • Scheduled deep cleaning on every campus
  • Increased cleaning during transition times
  • Continue encouraging hand-hygiene protocols
  • Volunteers restrictions
  • Asking visitors to complete health-screener

On an as-needed, based-on-caseload basis, Moseley’s recommendations call for:

  • Additional lunch periods/adjusted lunch schedule
  • Consideration for canceling campus events
  • Classroom desk-spacing adjustments
  • Condensed elementary classroom rotation
  • Isolation room opened at nurse’s discretion

Trustee Marty Bartlett, SMD #6, praised Comal ISD Supt. Andrew Kim and administrators “for coming up with the protocols that were the right things to do for our students. We hear a lot of background noise but when the data comes in on what’s really going on on our campuses and we really see what’s occurring we know that the protocols are working…we’ve made decisions that are the best for educating students and it’s playing itself out.”

Comal ISD did not publicly announce that any protocols were in place before Tuesday’s meeting, only telling parents in emails the district was going “back to normal” for the 2020-21 school year.

Comal ISD ranked fourth in the state for Texas school districts with the most new reported COVID-19 cases, according to a Sept. 17 Texas Tribune article that tracked cases in 649 of around 1,2000 school districts between Sept. 6 and Sept. 12.

Cypress-Fairbanks ISD reported 699 new student and 129 staff cases and 6.1 new cases per 1,000 students; Conroe ISD reported 665 new student and 89 staff cases and 10.3 new cases per 1,000 students; Katy ISD reported 500 new student and 89 staff cases and 5.9 new cases per 1,000 students; and Comal ISD reported 480 new student cases and 50 staff cases and 18.7 new cases per 1,000 students, for the highest percentage of cases in the state.

Attendance issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic also were discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, with the board voting 7-0 to add five extra days of paid sick leave for teachers.

“Five days is a prudent approach in light of everything else,” Kim said before the vote, in response to a question from Michelle Ross, SMD #5, who was worried about what would happen later in the year to staff who use up all of their 15 sick days due to COVID-19.

“I want to make sure our teachers are taken care of,” she said. “We haven’t been able to give them the raise.”

Board President Jason York, who represents Canyon Lake in SMD #3, said trustees would support “an extenuating circumstance.”

Kim said paying for substitute teachers in a normal year costs the district around $2 million per year.

The district usually takes a teacher’s word regarding illness, but a doctor’s note is required for sick days incurred by COVID-19.

Comal ISD also will examine options for remote learning sometime in October, after the district’s had a chance to assess grade distribution.

In a separate email today, Comal ISD spokesperson Steve Stanford said Comal ISD has opted out of the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) School Year 21-22 COVID-19 Testing Program, which would have allocated $2,466,508 to the district to pay for weekly COVID-19 testing for students and staff.

Trustees went behind closed doors for an executive session for two hours before reconvening and voting 7-0 to approve a release agreement for former Canyon High School head football coach and athletic director Joe Lepsis.

The board also voted to approve a purchase and sale agreement for 22.92 acres of land at Highway 281 and Mustang Vista in Bulverde.

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