El Paso made ripples this week after officials announced the city had become the first in Texas to reach herd immunity against the coronavirus. You’ve probably heard the phrase thrown around a lot during the pandemic. But what does herd immunity actually mean?  We asked Dr. Ruth Berggren, an infectious diseases specialist with UT Health and director of the university’s center for medical humanities and ethics.   As of Monday, 75 percent of El Pasoans 12 and older were fully vaccinated. Experts generally say at least 70 percent of the population needs to be immune, either by vaccination or natural infection, for the virus to stop spreading. With the highly transmissible delta variant, Berggren believes the percentage of those vaccinated needs to be closer to 90 percent.    (24) view article arw

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly removed guidance for phasing out masks and other COVID-19 mitigation efforts in schools, cached versions of the agency’s website show. The CDC made the changes when it updated its guidance on universal indoor masking for students, staff, teachers and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of their vaccination status, on Aug. 5. "We believe that our state, as well as teachers unions, probably had an influence over this change," Jonathan Zachreson, an advocate for fully reopening California schools, told Fox News. "It's basically mask indefinitely in schools forever, and there is no off-ramps. So it's really disappointing to see that."    (24) view article arw

Two school districts will make masks optional for students and staff this week. It comes after a drop in COVID-19 cases. Plano ISD’s board of trustees voted Tuesday night against extending the district’s mask mandate. "To continue the mandate or the requirement, in my opinion, it just does not make sense," one person said.    (24) view article arw

HOUSTON — The Houston Health Department monitors COVID-19 levels by testing wastewater at dozens of locations every week. That includes samples from more than 50 Houston ISD schools. Because people shed virus when they use the restroom, wastewater testing has proven to be an effective way to monitor the virus’ spread even when fewer people are getting tested. view article arw

Wastewater analysis seems to contradict what HISD's COVID dashboard, which uses self-reported data, reflects.  HOUSTON — Thursday's dismissal at Sylvan Rodriguez Elementary may be among the last for Ashla Stone’s 3rd grader -- at least for now.  “I’m going to just do it virtual,” Stone said.  She and two daughters all got COVID, have since recovered, but remain concerned.  That's despite Houston ISD’s COVID dashboard, which tracks active cases district-wide, showing only four cases among students at Rodriguez and zero among staff. view article arw

Hutto ISD began temporarily closing elementary classrooms considered “problematic cluster sites,” meaning three or more COVID-19 infections originated from them over a 14-day period, on Sept. 21. Such classrooms will remain closed for 10 days, during which time the students will continue to receive online instruction. As of Sept. 22, a total of 17 classrooms across HISD’s elementary schools are closed, according to Superintendent Celina Estrada Thomas. view article arw

To mask or not to mask is a question that’s framed many a conversation about the return to school. While Texas does not require school districts to mandate masks, some districts have instituted one. Pearland ISD is among the districts to follow TEA guidelines and not require them. A group of Pearland ISD parents who favor masks have come together with a compromise they say will help – at least at lunchtime: outdoor benches for students to eat lunch. The idea came from a conversation on Facebook among parents who wanted their children in the classroom, but would have rather masks be a must. “We wanted to be a part of something we could offer our school district, our principal, as far as trying to work within their means and just offer them a solution,” said Maria Restrepo, a parent. view article arw

The lawsuit by the state of Texas against an employee vaccination mandate by the San Antonio Independent School District survived a challenge to its routine assertion that the state had jurisdiction to bring the suit. But the school district’s lawyers delayed the state’s effort to stop the vaccination order, filing a notice that they will appeal a judge’s ruling on the jurisdiction question to the Fourth Court of Appeals. view article arw

Facebook has repeatedly found that its Instagram app is harmful to a number of teenagers, according to a Wall Street Journal report published Tuesday. The Journal cited Facebook studies over the past three years that examined how Instagram affects its young user base, with teenage girls being most notably harmed. One internal Facebook presentation said that among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the issue to Instagram. view article arw

Callahan County Sheriff's Office deputies are investigating an alleged sexual assault at Eula High School. According to a news release shared on the Callahan County Facebook page, the incident took place during eighth period (between 2:45 and 3:20 p.m.) at Eula High School on Sept. 15. view article arw

GALVESTON, Texas - The Galveston Police Department is now investigating after a bomb threat was made toward a Galveston ISD school on Thursday afternoon, officials said. According to a release, Galveston Police and the Collegiate Academy at Weis, located at 7100 Stewart Road, received calls regarding an active bomb threat. view article arw

ROUND ROCK, Texas — A heated Round Rock ISD board meeting results in a new police investigation. Video from the board meetings shows one woman from the crowd who appears to walk over to the microphone and spit on it. Most of the evening was spent hearing from members of the public with strong opinions. "Most of this is a joke and I guess blessed be the fruit, the commanders of Gilead," said one speaker at Wednesday’s meeting. view article arw

Weslaco ISD drops mask requirement

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Masks are now optional at Weslaco Independent School District, a spokesperson for the school said Wednesday. Masks were required up until Monday, spokesperson Arminda Munoz said via email Wednesday. “Weslaco ISD strongly encourages everyone to continue to wear masks at all WISD indoor facilities,” she wrote. The district’s Interim Superintendent Criselda “Cris” Valdez told the district’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday that new guidance from the Texas Education Agency may make mask wearing at local schools optional. view article arw

The Yselta Independent School District could likely discontinue its weekly Covid-19 rapid testing for students due to several factors, including the district's positivity rate that district officials say is on the decline. During a board meeting on Sept. 15, Lynly Leeper, YISD's chief financial and operational officer recommended to the board that rapid testing only be conducted for those who were exposed and symptomatic. view article arw

After a hoax 911 call about a school shooter spurred a large police response at an Austin high school last week, one Austin ISD trustee asked for the district to define which law enforcement agencies lead responses to 911 calls. Trustee Kevin Foster said at the Sept. 23 board of trustees meeting that roughly 100 first responders—Austin ISD police, Austin police, state troopers, a swat unit and medics—arrived at LBJ Early College High School last week after a 911 call reported a school shooter, though the call turned out to be a “hoax,” Foster said. Foster said some parents of LBJ High School students told him armed officers lined up students in the classroom where they suspected the threat to be and then pulled students out for questioning. view article arw

The Round Rock Independent School District board has approved another mask mandate for students and staff. The 5-2 vote came after midnight early Thursday during a meeting punctuated by disruptions and protesters.  Under the new mandate, students, staff and visitors must wear masks on buses and indoors when 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained. They can remove their masks when seated for lunch or while outdoors.  Masks can also be removed for athletics, fine arts and physical education when allowed by an instructor, director or coach.  The new mandate uses a "mask matrix," connecting the mask requirement to COVID-19 risk stages determined by Williamson and Travis counties' health districts. Masks will be required when COVID-19 transmission is at its highest levels, and they will become optional as community spread slows. view article arw

Melissa Williams, who was killed outside Vernon Elementary, had been with the district in various roles for 14 years, the superintendent says. The motorist who hit her may have been having a medical issue, police say.  Royse City ISD is mourning the death of an employee who was fatally struck by a car this week while she was working as a crossing guard.  The Fate Department of Public Safety said a motorist hit the crossing guard — identified by the district as Melissa Williams — around 7:30 a.m. Monday near Miss May Vernon Elementary School in the 100 block of Miss May Drive. The school is in Fate but is part of Royse City ISD.  The motorist, whose identity has not been disclosed, may have been experiencing a medical problem at the time of the crash, the department said. The motorist also hit a vehicle, it said. view article arw

KINGWOOD, Texas (KETK) – A 17-year-old high school senior has been arrested and charged with capital murder for allegedly shooting a 14-year-old son of a police officer late Monday night.  Bryan Smith Jr. was arrested on Wednesday and is being held in the Montgomery County jail.  Our NBC affiliate KPRC says that investigators are still combing through evidence and have not determined a motive for the shooting. They added that both Smith and the victim went to the same high school and were considered friends. view article arw

The federal government is investigating the Texas Education Agency after deeming that its guidance prohibiting mask mandates in schools last week may be “preventing school districts in the state from considering or meeting the needs of students with disabilities.” The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights launched the investigation on Tuesday, just days after the TEA quietly updated its public health guidance. On Friday, the state agency said that school districts once again can’t require face coverings, citing that courts are not blocking Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order prohibiting local mask mandates. The agency did not immediately respond to request for comment or say how or if it will enforce the order or if every school district in the state has been notified of this change. view article arw

A week after the return of classes at Fort Bend ISD in August, the district had already seen hundreds of positive COVID-19 cases, in the middle of a surge that left many parents concerned for their children’s safety. Fort Bend County Judge KP George issued a mask mandate for the county, raising the threat level to red, and the school district ultimately voted to follow suit, issuing its own mandate in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders banning such requirements. view article arw

The district is asking parents and children worried about the recent threat of a school shooting to follow a normal schedule this week. A disturbing shooting threat was found inside a United South High School bathroom on Tuesday afternoon. The UISD Police Department initiated an investigation as to find the one who wrote the threat, which stated that a shooting would take place on Thursday or Friday. According to UISD, the district’s police have conducted a wellness check alongside the investigation and have found no viable threat. Regardless, the district will continue with the plan to have a heightened security presence for the remainder of the week. view article arw

The Conroe ISD board of trustees unanimously approved giving Superintendent Curtis Null the authority to authorize a payment that does not exceed $1.7 million for the purchase of biodefense indoor air protection systems at a regular meeting on Sept. 21. view article arw

An area music tutor who thought he was planning to meet a 13-year-old girl for sex — and met a group that confronts suspected pedophiles instead — was arrested Monday by the Texas Rangers. Jacob Andrew Kolodziej, 28, is charged with online solicitation of a minor under 14 years old. He posted a $50,000 bond and was released the same day. On Aug. 27, Kolodziej went to a hotel in the 100 block of Villita Street, where he thought he was going to meet a girl. view article arw

Abilene ISD announced Wednesday that all AISD faculty and staff members who are currently fully vaccinated or who will be fully vaccinated will soon receive stipend payments in the amount of $1,000. Those that wish to participate in the voluntary program must be fully vaccinated and enroll on or before November 8. view article arw

HAWLEY, Texas — Hawley Independent School District, along with Hawley Police Department is investigating an incident that occurred at Hawley High School's Homecoming football game against Winters High School last Friday. According to a press release form the City of Hawley Police Department, a man wearing a Halloween mask was scaring elementary aged children at the game. He also allegedly made several statements that concerned children and parents. It was also reported that the man grabbed a couple of girls by the arm. Police located the individual and began investigating. view article arw

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 4,315 East Texans have lost their lives to the virus, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The fatalities reported date from March 7, 2020 to Sept. 21, 2021. The total number of COVID-19 fatalities in the state of Texas is currently 61,570. East Texas funeral homes say that they are seeing a surge in COVID-19 deaths and that they are putting a strain on many of their businesses. Last week, as of Sept. 17, the total number of active COVID-19 cases in East Texas increased by more than 4,000 from the previous week. view article arw

HOUSTON – Aldine ISD Board of Trustees approved a COVID-19 vaccination incentive program for employees who are fully vaccinated. During a board meeting on Tuesday, the incentive will offer a one-time $500 payment to qualifying full-time and part-time employees and substitute teachers, regardless of how long ago they have received their vaccine. view article arw

ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — Crossing guards keep our kids safe as they walk on busy streets to get to and from school, but they’re just aren’t enough in the Round Rock Independent School District.  Prior to the pandemic, the district had 105 crossing guards, but now there are only 60.  The RRISD Police Department has helped fill those vacant positions along with volunteers, but they need help and are hoping more people will sign up.  “We are constantly going around our district looking for areas and listening to the community when they send information about crossing street concerns,” said Jeffrey Yarbrough, RRISD chief of police. “We are responsive to those (concerns) and make sure we have an officer or staff available to ensure our kids are making it to school safely.” view article arw

The Corsicana Independent School District Trustees approved a Memorandum of Understanding between the District and Tarleton State University as part of the Distinguished High School Partnership Program. The agreement ensures that the top 25% of the graduating class would gain automatic acceptance to Tarleton State. Qualified CHS students would also receive $500 in additional aid. Students in the top 10% of their class will also be accepted and receive $1,000 of additional aid. view article arw

The Round Rock Independent School District Board of Trustees voted 5-2 late Wednesday night to extend its mask requirements. Trustees Mary Bone and Danielle Weston voted no. With the vote, the district will move forward with Superintendent Dr. Hafedh Azaiez’ suggestion connecting the district’s mask rules to different COVID-19 risk stages set by Williamson and Travis County health authorities. view article arw

Killeen ISD normally has two district officers on high school campuses. After several high-profile incidents, they are sending more resources.  Due to recent violence in Killeen ISD schools, its police force will be move district officers to high schools.  Killeen ISD Police Chief Ralph Disher told 6 News Wednesday Killeen ISD has seen 16 assaults at district campuses since the beginning of the year. Statistically, Disher said, the number is not much higher than normal.   At the same time, he said, this year definitely feels different.  "I don't know if we're seeing more fights than we have in the past but there is a different dynamic than what we have had in the past," Disher said. "You've got to realize in the last 18 months, kids were either not at school or were virtual. They are used to having that structure."  KISD incidents have easily made headlines in the last month. Ellison High School went on lockdown on Aug. 27 and had a fire, a false claim of a gun on campus and a fight all on the same day.   (23) view article arw

Plano students, staff and visitors won’t be required to wear masks in school buildings starting next week. On a 3-4 vote, Plano ISD trustees on Tuesday rejected an attempt to extend the district’s temporary mask mandate, which runs through Friday. “From a policymaker’s standpoint, I really don’t see why we should mandate masks, with or without exemptions,” said trustee Heather Wang, who voted against the extension. “All kinds of things have been done under the banner of science.”  The policy had allowed for parents and guardians to file for an exception for their children, citing medical, religious or philosophical reasons. About 8% of the district’s approximately 50,000 students opted out of wearing masks.  Board president David Stolle, who voted against the extension, said that when trustees originally implemented the mandate on Aug. 23, they did so with the understanding that they were addressing a surge of COVID-19 cases in Collin County.    (23) view article arw

With the blessing of Gov. Greg Abbott, lawyers for the state and the plaintiffs in a class-action case alleging unsafe conditions in Texas’ foster care system are planning a summit meeting for next week to hash out policy solutions. The summit marks a new phase in six years of legal proceedings since federal Judge Janis Jack ruled that the Texas foster care system placed children in jeopardy and violated their constitutional rights.  The state fought back and appealed, but Jack’s ruling stood and she ordered a number of changes to the state’s system, threatened fines and upbraided state officials in hearings.  But the time has ended for holding “feet to the fire,” Jack said in a hearing last week, calling for immediate solutions as up to 400 Texas children each month are stuck in unsafe, temporary placements in motels or state office buildings. She called on Abbott to decide whether he would support changes. view article arw

The Texas Tribune is using daily data from the Texas Department of State Health Services to track coronavirus vaccinations, cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The state data comes from vaccine providers, city and county health departments, hospitals and laboratories. It may not represent all cases of the disease given limited testing. To get The Texas Tribune’s coronavirus coverage in your inbox, sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter. We’re also keeping our readers informed over text messages. To sign up for free COVID-19 text alerts, text “hello” to 512-967-6919. view article arw

A group of Carthage ISD parents say the district’s COVID policies are discriminatory and illegal — and they want things to change.Several people spoke at Monday’s school board meeting to say that their children were being coerced and bullied into wearing face masks. Some compared the seating of masked kids together and unmasked kids together to that of segregation. In all, they say the district is, in effect, harming children who choose not to wear face masks.  “Now, to the degree that any school in the Carthage ISD is implementing or enforcing these policies, not only are they engaging in lawless, anti-scientific, irrational and foolish behavior — and if that were not enough, any school in the CISD implementing and enforcing these policies are in fact engaging in child abuse,” Shane Iturbide said. “These schools are lying to our children about the personal threat they face from this relatively mild disease, they’re lying to our children about the effectiveness of masks to prevent them from contracting and spreading this relatively mild disease, and they are creating a culture that is hostile to children based on either that parent or that child’s willingness to go along with said lies.” view article arw