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A Texas school district closed all its schools after two teachers died from Covid-19

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By David Williams, CNN

A Texas school district is closing all of its schools until after the Labor Day holiday after two junior high teachers died of Covid-19 complications in the same week.

In an email to parents on Monday, Connally Independent School District said that was closing all of its campuses due to an increase of Covid-19 cases and the number of absences of both students and staff.

The district plans to resume in-person classes on September 7, and students will have remote lessons for the rest of this week.

“Our hope is that the closure and holiday break will provide those who are positive with the virus or exposed to others with the virus, the time to isolate and recover. This closure will also allow time for deep cleaning and sanitizing of all CISD facilities,” the district said in an email provided to CNN.

The district serves the cities of Lacy Lakeview and Waco and the communities of Elm Mott, Chalk Bluff, and Gholson.

Two teachers at Connally Junior High died recently from Covid-19, the district said in separate emails to parents.

Sixth-grade social studies teacher Natalia Chansler, 41, died on Saturday from complications from Covid-19, the email said. She was last on campus on August 25.

She was starting her second year with the district and had previously taught in La Vega ISD and Waco ISD.

David A. McCormick, a 59-year-old 7th-grade social studies teacher, died on August 24, the district said.

“While Mr. McCormick was new to this campus this year, he was well-known having taught for us in the past and has family teaching here and children who graduated from Connally ISD,” the email said.

He had last been at the school on August 18, which was the first day of school in the district.

Neither teacher had been identified as having close contact with a Covid positive person on campus and the district had no definitive evidence of how they contracted the virus, Connally ISD Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Jill Bottelberghe told CNN in an email Wednesday night.

She said the district did not know if the teachers had been vaccinated, but Chansler’s older sister told CNN that she had not been vaccinated.

The district said counselors will be available to support students and help them deal with the loss.

“With the loss of two beloved teachers, we know that concerns for physical and mental health are heightened. We want to assure you that we are focused on measures to take care of our students and staff,” the email to parents said.

Bottelberghe said that as of August 30 there had been 165 positive Covid cases reported and that more cases had been identified in testing on Wednesday.

The district announced Wednesday on Facebook that it was canceling the varsity and sub-varsity high school football games scheduled for Thursday and Friday and all other indoor and outdoor school activities.

A drive-through testing session held Wednesday morning for staff, students and community members had a 26% positivity rate, the post said.

McLennan County, which includes Waco, has had 34,242 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 533 deaths from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The district provided Covid-19 rapid testing to all staff at the junior high on Sunday and plans to offer them for parents and students as well. It has scheduled a vaccination clinic on September 13 for staff, parents and the community.

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