Arlington schools cancel employee convocation over rising COVID case numbers

·2 min read

The Arlington school district canceled its in person back-to-school convocation for faculty and staff due to rising coronavirus cases.

District faculty and staff were scheduled to board buses from Arlington schools to AT&T Stadium early Monday for Ignite 2021, a two-and-a-half-hour event that educators described to the Star-Telegram as a “pep rally.” Stadium leaders offered their space and support staff for the morning, but not their parking spaces, according to a district-wide email obtained by the Star-Telegram. Masks had not been required for the bus ride.

“AT&T Stadium has generously donated the use of the facility and their support staff for our event,” one of the email attachments read. “In return, they asked that our employees please arrive by bus to avoid additional expenses for parking attendants.”

The plans, especially the transportation logistics, concerned Kim Martinez, who teaches pre-kindergarten at Webb Elementary School. Martinez said she did not feel comfortable attending the event due to rising case numbers, as well as people she knows who have tested positive for COVID despite being fully vaccinated.

People who are vaccinated are far less likely to get sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though the agency has reported a small amount of “breakthrough cases.” The CDC recommends people wear masks indoors in counties like Tarrant where there are high virus transmission levels.

As of Wednesday morning, Martinez was rallying other concerned faculty to speak at the board’s Thursday meeting, when representatives are scheduled to discuss updated school operations as COVID cases rise in Tarrant County.

Tarrant County reported nine COVID-19 deaths and 876 new cases Wednesday.

“It’s the district’s duty to minimize our exposure and protect us,” Martinez said. “In the absence of a mask mandate, the only other thing they can do is other mitigation, like don’t have unnecessary, in-person meetings.”

Officials called off the event by Wednesday afternoon. The district will hold a virtual event instead, though officials have not set a date for the program, according to AISD spokesperson Anita Foster.

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