Chapel Hill ISD to require masks when students return next week

Nearly 500 people absent across district Thursday
Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 6:55 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2022 at 7:31 PM CST
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CHAPEL HILL, Texas (KLTV) - The list of East Texas school district closures related to COVID-19 continues to grow. And while many districts take time off to deal with the situation, one district is taking another step by requiring face coverings when students return.

“Just recently this week we have seen quite an impressive increase,” said Belen Casillias, Director of Communications for Chapel Hill ISD in Smith County.

According to the district, nearly 500 people were absent on Thursday, Jan. 13. Considering that number, Chapel Hill ISD leaders decided to close campuses on Friday and make use of the upcoming holiday weekend to hopefully slow the spread.

“We had quite a bit of absences either because a staff member had a child that had COVID and could not come to work, or a student did have COVID or was being quarantined,” Casillas said. “So it wasn’t that all of our absences were because of COVID, it was COVID-related.”

When students and staff return after the holiday weekend, the district will require everyone wear masks inside district buildings and vehicles.

“We have evidence to show that the previous temporary mask mandate had a good impact on our numbers,” Casillas said.

The most recent mandate was in effect last semester and school officials said it helped keep case counts in the single digits, and they’re hoping for a similar outcome in this outbreak.

Chapel Hill ISD will join Lufkin ISD as the only East Texas districts currently enforcing a mask requirement.

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