Five Nacogdoches County school districts closed this week as the number of COVID-19 cases shattered previous records, leading to staffing shortages.

Etoile, Nacogdoches, Martinsville, Central Heights and Garrison were all closed heading into the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend.

“Our shortage right now is in the high absenteeism in staff,” Central Heights Superintendent Dr. David Russell said, expressing the same sentiment as other districts around the county.

Nacogdoches County added more than 550 cases of COVID-19 in the past week, reaching a record of 962 active COVID-19 cases Friday morning. Active COVID-19 cases — those where the patient is still considered contagious — last peaked at 778 on Sept. 16 as the delta variant of the virus ran roughshod over the community.

Etoile ISD was the first in a sort of chain reaction of school closings.

The school announced early Wednesday that it would close at 1 p.m. and not reopen until Tuesday. Monday is a state holiday.

Around the time Etoile dismissed for the day, Nacogdoches Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo was telling Rotary Club of Nacogdoches that school would close Thursday through Jan. 19.

“At this time, there are too many campuses where we don’t have the staffing necessary to conduct academic instruction in classes,” Trujillo said. “Also, absences in the district’s Transportation Department are affecting our ability to bus students to school in the mornings and back home in the afternoons.”

Martinsville ISD soon followed, saying it would close until Tuesday and delay homecoming activities.

Around 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Central Heights ISD announced it would close until Jan. 19. Garrison followed Thursday evening, announcing class will return Tuesday.

Nacogdoches and Central Heights officials said they don’t expect to add any school days to cover the closings.

“We have enough instructional minutes built into the schedule that students will not have to make up these days at the end of the year,” Russell said.

Despite soaring case numbers, hospitalizations have remained low compared to September as the delta variant surge overflowed hospitals and intensive care units.

Twenty-five people were hospitalized with COVID-19 Friday morning, seven of them in intensive care. Hospitalizations have hovered around those figures since the omicron variant began to take hold.

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