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Central Texas health districts ready to help schools navigate in-person learning amid rising COVID cases

Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 7:14 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - As students head back to the classroom, COVID-19 cases are also on the rise, and both the Waco-McLennan County Health District and the Bell County Health District are prepared to help schools navigate the challenges of in-person learning.

During the height of the pandemic, Bell County judge David Blackburn said the health district had weekly meetings with school superintendents, and those are restarting as cases are on the rise again.

Judge Blackburn said the meetings were an opportunity to talk about protocols and policies, and to answer any questions. He adds that cooperation and coordination between the health district, county, schools and health authority is important to ensure everyone’s safety.

“When you don’t have that cooperation, collaboration, you could end up with great in consistencies across a very small geographic area,” Judge Blackburn said. “And that would undermine the policies and the procedures and the safety ultimately of everyone involved.”

Waco-McLennan County Health District director LaShonda Malrey-Horne said they plan to have open lines of communication with the schools in case they have questions, although they don’t have the power to make decisions for the school.

“What we’re here to do is to be a partner with the school district and try to make sure they have the most up to date information that’s credible and the information that’s going to give them the, the strength they need to make the right decisions for the kids,” Malrey-Horne said.

While communication is key for both health districts, that’s not the only aspect they’re helping schools with. The districts are also working to get kids vaccinated, which both Malrey-Horne and Judge Blackburn encourage.

“If your children are over the age of 12, strongly consider getting them vaccinated,” Malrey-Horne said.

In recent weeks, Malrey-Horne said they have collaborate with Midway, China Spring, La Vega, and Waco ISDs.

In Bell County, the health district has helped schools plan clinics in several districts. Earlier this month, Judge Blackburn said over 200 students were vaccinated at a clinic with Temple ISD.

“That’s, that’s a key, key message that we’re trying to get out right now,” Judge Blackburn said. “That vaccinations are safe, they’re effective, and they’re available.”

Malrey-Horne said as students head back into the classroom, she is strongly encouraging parents to look at the CDC guidelines and make educated decisions about what is best for their students.

As part of Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order, schools cannot require students to wear masks.

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