SALADO, Texas — The recent COVID-19 surge is forcing Central Texas school districts to come up with ways to keep students safe, schools open and COVID-19 cases down.
Some have resorted to asking parents to substitute. Other school district's administrations are having to help fill the gaps where staff is out. Meanwhile, others are just saying it's best to close the doors for a couple of days that includes Salado Independent School District.
District officials decided to close all schools due to COVID related staffing issues from Jan. 19 to Jan. 21.
Salado ISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Novotny says his district needed to close for a couple of days due to staffing issues primarily at the elementary school. He says 27 out of 113 employees at the district's one elementary school were out Tuesday.
"Everybody was doing such an incredible job of helping cover each other's jobs, duties and classrooms," Novotny said. "We had folks from this building going over there with lunch duty and covering classes and driving school buses and it's just was not able to continue doing that."
Novotny says throughout the pandemic they've never had staffing issues like this and that's because the omicron variant is so much more contagious.
"I've never experienced anything like this even in the two years of COVID," he added. "We've had employees out, but never this number."
Novotny told 6 News since the beginning of the pandemic they've kept the same protocols and guidelines, but the Omicron variant shows to be stronger than their tools and that's why Salado Eagles needed a break.
While school is out, Novotny, other district leaders and some staff will continue to be working, making sure campuses remain clean and making sure the return to school is safe.
One of their biggest tools to fight COVID-19 is a special tool the district invested in.
"The real technique we've used recently in the last years of COVID, we have sprayers that will spray sanitizer down on all the surfaces, that's the one we use the most," Novotny said.
He says it's able to reach the greatest amount of square footage in the shortest amount of time. It's supposed to be effective up to 90 days, but the district told 6 News they use it more often than that.
Salado ISD also uses other cleaning techniques on a daily bases and will continue to do so even when classrooms and hallways remain empty.
However, Novotny believes the virus doesn't stand a chance with school being on pause.
"We're more concerned in the cleaning and sanitizing in hand sanitizing when the kids are in school every day, you know, in class to class." Novotny explained. "The viruses have a greater chance of surviving those short periods of time than an a five day break like this."
Novotny says the whole point of closing is to give everyone the chance to recover so there isn't a lot of contagious people around for when they return, but that also means everyone has to do their part when out of school.