WACO, Texas (KWTX) – The Connally ISD is closing all of its campuses through next Monday as COVID-19 cases and absences rise and after the death of a second teacher in less than a week.
“This closure is an effort to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and is in line with recommendations from the McLennan County Health Department,” Superintendent Wesley Holt said in a message to parents.
“Our hope is that the closure and holiday break will provide those who are positive with the virus or exposed to others with the virus, the time to isolate and recover,” he said in the message.
The decision to close all schools came after the district announced earlier Monday that Natalia Chansler, 41, who taught sixth-grade social studies at Connally Junior High School, died Saturday of complications from the virus.
She was last on the campus on Aug. 25.
She was in her second year as a teacher in the district.
She also taught in the La Vega ISD and the Waco ISD.
Seventh-grade social studies teacher David “Andy” McCormick, 49, died on Aug. 24 of COVID-19.
“With the loss of two beloved teachers, we know that concerns for physical and mental health are heightened. We want to assure you that we are focused on measures to take care of our students and staff,” Holt said.
On Sunday the district provided rapid COVID-19 testing to the junior high school staff.
“We know that testing can help curtail the spread of the virus, by identifying cases, including asymptomatic individuals who can then isolate for 10 days,” Holt said.
The district is working to arrange the same testing for students and parents as well as staff.
The district is also hosting a vaccination clinic from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sept. 13 in the Connally High School gym.
Principals will provide parents with information about how students will access remote conferencing with their assigned teachers and the requirements for attendance purposes, the district said.
Officials asked parents to monitor their children for symptoms and, if a child does test positive, to contact the child’s campus nurse.
Breakfasts and lunches will be distributed during the temporary closure from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. daily in front of each school.
A funeral service for Andy McCormick begins at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Lake Shore Funeral Home at 5201 Steinbeck Bend Dr. in Waco.
Burial follows at Moore Cemetery in Chalk Bluff.
McCormick, a Waco native, Pan American University graduate, and U.S. Air Force veteran, is survived by his wife and three children.
He was last on the campus on Aug. 18.
“We have not found any correlation” between the deaths of the two educators, Assistant Superintendent Jill Bottelberghe said Monday.
“They were at two different grade levels even though they worked under the same content area, but we have recognized that there has been an increase in spread as far as throughout our student body at those two grade levels.”
Connally High School teacher David Guel contracted COVID-19 in late March 2020 and was admitted on March 25, 2020, to Ascension Providence Hospital in Waco where he spent 26 days in the ICU, 16 of them on a ventilator.
Guel was released from the hospital on April 25, 2020.
He was back in the classroom for the start of the fall 2020 semester.
The 1997 Baylor University graduate and his wife, Lauren, who battled a less severe case of the virus at home while her husband struggled to survive in the hospital, were among the first McLennan County residents to receive the Moderna vaccine in mid-January.
He’s teaching at Connally High School this fall.
An educator was among the first McLennan County residents to die of the virus.
G.W. Carver Middle School Principal Phillip Perry died of complications from the virus on March 31, 2020.
(Katie Aupperle contributed to this story)
Written by KWTX Staff