Conroe ISD reports over 1,100 new COVID-19 cases 2 weeks into new school year

CONROE, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo tweeted Thursday night, calling the Texas Supreme Court's ruling in favor of local governments implementing mask mandates a "big win" for Harris County and a "victory for our kids' health."

When students return on Monday, they will be under a mask mandate.

But it's a different story in Conroe ISD, where they're dealing with more than a thousand cases after just the first two weeks of school. Masks are strongly encouraged, but not required.

The tennis courts in The Woodlands were full of young players who were safely socially distanced on Thursday.

SEE ALSO: Houston schools report 40% more COVID cases overnight

"Parents were begging me to take their kids out of the house," said Coach Ken Sjoberg.

It was a stark contrast to indoor learning environments, where the coronavirus can easily spread. ABC13 obtained an internal email sent to CISD staff from Deputy Superintendent Dr. Chris Hines. In the email, Hines said the district has moved to a "Safety Alert Level Four" and shows there have been more than 1,100 reported positive COVID-19 cases in just the first two weeks of school. More than 950 of those cases are kids.

"[My son] missed the first day of school because a friend in the neighborhood was diagnosed with COVID-19 and he played with him, " said Alfred Hinojas, whose son is a CISD student.

Hinojas said his son tested negative for the virus. Now, the boy is playing it safe and participating in outdoor activities. The classroom, however, still presents challenges.

"My only slight concern is that my son, who is 11 years old, is below the threshold for being unvaccinated himself. Everyone else in the household is vaccinated," Hinojas said.

Montgomery County Public Health is reporting a COVID spike in kids under 12 between June and July. Since early August, 573 kids have tested positive.

The Texas Education Agency has reversed earlier guidance. They encourage districts to start contact tracing and notify parents about COVID cases on campus. Hinojas said getting that information from CISD made him feel safer.

"They let us know that they're taking appropriate cleaning measures overnight, and they keep us informed," he said.

SEE ALSO: TEA says schools now must notify families of a positive COVID-19 case in classrooms

At the same time, Coach Sjoberg is working to keep young kids active, healthy, and COVID-free.

"Every single time they come on the court, I take their temperature. Anything above 99.5 and they have to go home. I haven't had a single case of COVID," said Sjoberg.

Tennis is an outdoor sport that's grown in popularity during the pandemic while cases on school campuses continue to rise.

NOTE: This story originally reported that Conroe ISD had over 11,000 COVID-19 cases in the first two weeks of school. It has been updated to reflect the correct total of positive cases in the district, over 1,100.
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