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Rural schools adjust to staffing shortages as result of COVID-19 case surge

There seems to be a trickle effect as school districts across the Coastal Bend are being forced to make decisions -- some of which include closures.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Tonight, Brooks County ISD is back in the classroom after colder temperatures delayed their start this week. 

However, another south Texas district-- is closing down for the week. Skidmore Tynan ISD making that decision just last night.

There seems to be a trickle effect as school districts across the Coastal Bend are being forced to make decisions -- some of which include closures - due to staffing shortages related to COVID-19. 

Skidmore-Tynan Superintendent Richard Waterhouse said that the decision to close was made as a last result. 

"First of all it was made very very reluctantly, and only after we exhausted every option we could think of. It's not something anybody wanted to do," Waterhouse said. 

He adds that the decision to cancel school for the remainder of the week was completely out of their control. 

"The tipping point came when we no longer had the staff available to service our students to take care of them and educate them," Waterhouse said.  

There are currently 22 members of staff out with COVID-19, and 141 students Waterhouse said is the highest number of cases they have had since the pandemic begin. 

Unfortunately Skidmore-Tynan is not the only rural district facing this obstacle. Tuesday Brooks County returned back to school after a week off, to help slow the spread and allow for adequate testing. Currently they have 15 positive staff members and 31 students. 

Brooks County Judge Eric Ramos said that while the shortage has impacted schools, changes are being made to insure students are receiving the tools they need to succeed in the classroom. 

"Yes it is creating a shortage, not only in the classroom, that includes cafeteria personnel and custodial," Ramos said. "But I do commend the district who brought in a pool of eligible substitutes who were able to help us out." 

Both school districts are rural and competing against each other, as well as other districts nearby, when it comes to calling in for backup. They are also exploring options with finding substitutes.

"We hope after this week and the fair we can think about bringing kids back in," Waterhouse said. "We always think about academics but we've learned the emotional well being, and kids do better when here and that's what we are trying to do." 

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