Ellison High School

A crowded Ellison High School was seen Monday on the first day of the 2021-2022 school year in Killeen.

Emotions were high in Killeen as some 40,000 students and 3,300 teachers returned to the Killeen Independent School District this week as the fourth wave of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic runs rampant in Bell County.

Killeen ISD spokeswoman Taina Maya said Wednesday 40,803 KISD students attended school Monday. School officials are projecting enrollment to be as high as 46,000 students in the district this year.

“Our enrollment will continue to fluctuate during this first week as it has in years past,” Maya said Wednesday.

Protest

Parents protested outside KISD Tuesday demanding a mask mandate as COVID-19 cases rise statewide.

Small protests formed outside the Killeen ISD headquarters Monday and Tuesday as parents pressed the district to implement a mask mandate in opposition to Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates.

Other parents took to social media sharing their experiences — including reports of overcrowded hallways and cafeterias, and alleged chair shortages with students reportedly standing and unable to sit in certain classes.

Shortage

Some parents shared stories of students attending classes without a teacher, or with a substitute filling in, on the first day.

"This week has been very stressful on everyone," Killeen Educators Association President Rachel Bourrage said Wednesday. "Especially since there is no mask mandate and a shortage of teachers. But we are resilient, we come together in times like these and we do our best. The anxiety is there, no doubt, but we are educators, and we do what we have to do to keep our students safe."

The district openly discussed its struggle to hire new teachers during the Aug. 10 school board meeting.

According to Jessica Neyman, KISD’s chief human resources director, the school district was short nearly 260 teachers as the 2021-2022 school year started, after hiring 381 teachers over the summer. KISD employs about 3,300 classroom teachers in total.

Safety

Some parents told they Herald they are concerned about the health and safety of KISD students and teachers as Bell County and Texas battles a fourth surge of COVID-19 cases.

Twenty-three KISD employees reported positive COVID-19 cases in the week before school started, according to KISD data obtained by the Herald Tuesday.

Five positive COVID-19 staff cases and one student case were reported to KISD on the first day of school Monday.

Vernell Mack — a Killeen resident, KISD grandmother, and former nurse — told the Herald Tuesday her grandson was inexplicably dropped from school on the first day of school.

“They dropped him from the roll because he had a doctor’s appointment,” Mack said.

On top of dealing with re-enrollment issues, Mack said she was shocked by how few people were wearing masks at Reeces Creek Elementary Tuesday.

“Some parents had on masks,” Mack said. “But the kids didn’t have on masks. What kind of mess is that? This is going to get out of control.”

Sooyon Jeong moved with her family to the Killeen area from South Korea in October and said the difference between the safety precautions at Department of Defense schools in Korea and KISD were striking.

“I was hoping there would be some social distancing,” Jeong said Tuesday. “In Korea, they had partitions between the students. They didn’t let them sit side-by-side. I feel like (KISD) should’ve been more cautious and done more. Elementary kids don’t even have the option to get vaccinated. It’s just very concerning.”

Jeong has four children attending KISD schools this fall.

“They have no choice, they have to go to school every day,” she said.

Last year, her children had the option to attend KISD schools virtually, which is not available this year.

Trennika Latelers, of Killeen, said her three KISD students had varying experiences during the first week back to school.

All three of Latelers children said there was no sign of social distancing at the schools they attend: Early College High School, Ellison High School and Live Oak Middle School.

Mask use and hand sanitizer availability varied by class and school, Latelers said.

Karen Griffin, of Killeen, a mother to two current KISD students, said she was shocked to see a photo of Ellison High School’s overcrowded hallways.

“I swear there are about 300 more students at Ellison than I ever remembered them having,” Griffin said Tuesday.

ldodd@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7567

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(3) comments

ResistTyranny

Health advice from the Government, So called "Doctors", "so called educators" ,the evil media and the uneducated sheep

Avoid sunlight and fresh air as much as possible.

Trap germs and bacteria on your face for at least 8 hours a day.

Watch television and read newspaper propaganda daily.

Instill a sense of fear and anxiety in your children.

overseer

In understanding the concerns of parents regarding the spread of COVID 19 and its variant, it still must be realized, that COVID will realistically never go away. Our children could return to school 3 years from now, and guess what, we would still have COVID cases being reported. Yet, with the variant now on a concerning uptick, we are now in a position that we had all hoped to avoid. With regards to the teacher union representatives and the like protesting outside of the KISD administration building and at school board meetings: why?

It has to be understood that the district is following law, yet there are some who are ok with violating laws…when it suits them. To all those who are protesting, have you called your congress person, or maybe even those who have running for Congress against the incumbents, to put out the demand to President Joe Bide to finally close our borders? A 10 year old can surmise the danger Biden has placed our southern states in, specifically, along with the rest of our nation by allowing the PROVEN free entry of illegal immigrants across our southern borders. Why have we seen no one complaining about that? This includes the Herald. What are people trying to blind themselves to? Governor Abbot tried to pass an executive order to restrict travel to illegals who had been shown to have COVID-19 through, as one means, traffic stops, and the DOJ files a lawsuit to stop it? Citing reasons of it “…disrupting their release plan”. Activist groups are against it due to the possibility of “Racial Profiling.” Does no one not see something wrong with this picture? Our government and residents of our nation want mandates in place to “protect” our citizens but, because a common sense move to identify and restrict travel to illegals will “interfere” with the release of them into our country, onto many of our military bases to boot, and concerns about racial profiling trumps the safety of our nation? Citizens are sacrificing their livelihoods, the freedoms, their lives and more but, it is ok to let COVID-19 spread because we don’t want anyone to be “racially profiled”?

As the residents of our great nation are being sacrificed, not by our Governor, but by our current presidential administration, why are we ALL not standing together to protest this travesty; this dark moment in our history; this act of, as perceived in opinion by some, a biological warfare against Texas and the other states the immigrants are being shipped to. Why are we not ALL complaining about the billions of dollars being spent on non residents of our country by the federal government while homelessness in our American cities have busted at the seems in some areas? We blame our local governments for the homeless issues, but will not call out President Biden for his part in neglecting it, on a much higher scale(billions of dollars)?

Residents of Killeen and the surrounding areas, including our illustrious newspaper, stop being afraid to call a spade a spade. Many of you had no issues in doing this with Presidents Trump. Once, though, Joe Biden gets in, everyone and their criticisms go dark? Hypocrisy, socialist minded, party affiliation and, or fear? What is YOUR reason for blinding yourself and remaining silent. Even some “religious” people are neglecting to speak truth despite having what they proclaim to be a God that “shows” them truth. As for the “non-religious”, the same will-full blinding of themselves occurs as well. To note, this is only with some. GOD BLESS AND KEEP AMERICA! MAY AMERICA CONTINUE TO BLESS AND KEEP GOD.

ResistTyranny

Very well stated. It boggles my mind how nobody else is asking these questions. There are very few people who will question the narratives. It is sad and very scary.

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