As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise in the Killeen school district following Christmas break — 920% between Saturday and Thursday — members of the Killeen Educators Association asked district leaders to make changes to protect students and staff.

As of Thursday morning, the Killeen Independent School District reported 204 active cases of COVID-19 among 133 students and 71 employees — an increase of 920% from Saturday’s record of 20 active cases. It also represented a single-day jump of 54 cases since Wednesday.

During a KISD school board meeting Tuesday, Killeen Educators Association president Rachel Bourrage implored board members to consider reinstating a mask mandate or a virtual option to get schools through the current surge in COVID-19 cases.

“The highly contagious omicron variant is sweeping across through our community,” Bourrage said. “Fear, apprehension, and work pressures are at unprecedented levels.

“Killeen Educators Association members believe the district should reinstate a virtual option for a six-week period so we can make it through the current surge without large numbers of student and employee infections.”

According to KISD data, the majority of COVID-19 cases since Christmas break have been among elementary school employees and staff.

“High level of sickness is harming our students and employees; it is also harming the instructional programs,” Bourrage said. “A virtual option will reduce the crowding in our schools and get us through the current surge.”

Bourrage cited a KEA survey taken Jan. 5 in which 65% of respondents said they supported a virtual learning option similar to the one KISD implemented during the 2020-2021 school year.

“The fact that we are still open with no mask mandate and no virtual learning options is insanity,” one anonymous survey respondent wrote. “People’s lives are in danger especially with our children. We barely have functioning schools now with the number of people leaving, dying, retiring, and/or just needing sick or mental health days.”

According to the KEA survey, 79% of 187 KEA members said they wanted KISD to implement a mask mandate in defiance of Governor Greg Abbott’s mask mandate ban.

“Board of Trustees, we know morale is low, burnout is high, and employee retention is a big challenge,” Bourrage said. “It is not an exaggeration to say our educational system is under severe strain. We can all get through this COVID surge but more help is needed.”

KISD board members did not have COVID-19 on Tuesday’s agenda and therefore did not respond to Bourrage’s public forum comments. Per KISD board policy, board members are only allowed to comment on agenda items.

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