There were a lot of empty chairs in Killeen area classrooms this week.
After more than 5,400 students were reported absent from schools within the Killeen Independent School District on Wednesday — the first day back after the Christmas break — the number of reported absences hovered around the same on Thursday and Friday.
On Thursday, 5,262 students were absent out of 43,354 enrolled, and on Friday, 5,883 students absent, according to KISD.
However, the numbers don’t truly reflect the total number of students who didn’t show for a whole day of school, district officials said.
“If a student is absent for a single ‘period’ they are marked absent in the reporting system,” said KISD spokeswoman Taina Maya, adding there were a number of events, including sports, that led to some students missing class.
Teachers were also absent in increasing numbers.
Of the district’s 2,944 teachers, KISD said 186 were absent “at some point” Wednesday. On Thursday, 265 teachers were absent from KISD, officials said.
“We anticipated the slight increase in absences especially since we are encouraging employees and students to stay home if they are ill,” Maya said in an email to the Herald on Friday.
“This is due in large part to families taking proactive measures when it comes to personal responsibility. The joint COVID-19 testing and vaccine center has been a useful resource for families, especially with allergies, flu and other bugs going around,” she said in reference to the former Nolan Middle School in Killeen. The former school will continue to provide COVID testing and vaccines next week, Monday through Friday.
In the Copperas Cove Independent School District, 569 students were absent Wednesday, and 769 were absent on Thursday, school officials said.
Thirty-six Cove teachers were absent Wednesday, and 55 were absent on Thursday.
Cove ISD employs 714 teachers with a student enrollment of 8,082.
Both school districts updated their active coronavirus case counts Friday.
Killeen’s COVID dashboard, which was updated at 6:06 a.m. Friday, showed a total of 12 active cases. Of the cases, two were students and 10 were staff members.
In Copperas Cove, which is updated every Friday, the district reported a total of 90 cases — 54 students and 36 staff. This total active count is up from eight on the Friday that students were released for the winter break, Dec. 17.
Since the break, Killeen started tracking active COVID cases for staff on Tuesday and students on Wednesday, which may indicate why the KISD dashboard shows a lower number than Cove’s, officials said.
“We continue to follow and update our Public Health Guide, provide free PPE, and stress the importance of frequent handwashing but we can’t do this alone,” Maya said. “Parents and employees can help us keep our doors open by adhering to public health recommendations to get vaccinated, wear a mask, properly isolate if they are in close contact with a positive individual, and to stay home when they are sick.”