Marble Falls ISD closing all schools Friday due to staff shortages amid COVID-19 surge

A COVID-19 nasal swab test.

The Marble Falls school district is closing all campuses Friday because of staff shortages attributed to "a surge of viral infections" amid the latest COVID-19 wave.

"We are saddened by the need to take this step, but MFISD does not have enough available staff to monitor students and maintain a safe school environment," the district said in Twitter and Facebook posts Wednesday evening.

Extracurricular activities will continue as scheduled unless families are notified otherwise, the district said.

Districts across Central Texas have been struggling to find substitute teachers amid rising staff absences since classes resumed last week after winter break, but Marble Falls appears to be the first area district to temporarily shut down amid the latest COVID-19 surge.

The district, which encourages staff and students to wear masks but doesn't require them, serves more than 4,000 students across four elementary schools, one middle school and two high schools.

As of Thursday afternoon, the district's dashboard was reporting 237 test-confirmed COVID-19 cases among students and staff so far this month.

In August, when the district's leaders closed down Highland Lakes Elementary one week into the school year amid an earlier surge of cases, the district reported 169 test-confirmed cases across campuses and facilities, according to its archived monthly COVID-19 reports.

Student attendance, which is used to determine funding for school districts, also has dropped across Central Texas schools this semester. In Marble Falls, most schools reported an average daily attendance of 80% to 86% on Thursday afternoon. At Spicewood Elementary, attendance was about 72%.

Smaller school districts across Texas have begun temporarily shutting down or closing schools as COVID-19 case numbers grow and top the totals seen last winter.

At least a dozen school districts in North Texas have announced closures, as have some districts in West Texas and East Texas.

Central Texas school districts, including Hutto, Leander and Lake Travis, have been forced to delay school and cancel or alter bus routes because of a lack of bus drivers.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Marble Falls ISD closing schools Friday due to COVID staff shortages