RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, school districts across the Rio Grande Valley are ensuring students and staff are safe through updated safety protocols.

Alonso Guerrero, director of Health Services for Brownsville ISD, said the school has added air purification systems to nurse offices and cafeterias along with sanitation items such as hand sanitizer.

BISD returned to on-campus instruction on Jan. 5 and has offered COVID-19 tests for students and staff.

“We started testing all of our staff and students, anybody that wanted to come in and test we were doing it. Since then, until now we’ve tested about 8,000 individuals,” said Guerrero.

He said the district is currently at a 16% positivity rate since Jan. 3. when staff returned to campus.

According to BISD’s COVID-19 Dashboard that is more than 1,600 positives between staff and students from Jan. 3 to Jan. 12.

The school district has about 38,500 students and about 7,000 staff.

Dr. Rene Gutierrez, superintendent for BISD, said the number of COVID-19 cases is changing.

“We did start seeing quite a few positive cases last week, but we’re starting to see a little bit of decline of positive cases, which is helpful,” said Dr. Gutierrez.

Across the Valley at Lasara ISD, safety measures were taken by delaying the return from the holiday break for most students.

“These first two weeks since Christmas break, we’ve been running intercessional calendar and on campus right now, we’re at maybe 15% capacity of the student population,” said superintendent Alejos Salazar.

Salazar said the intercessional calendar allows them to move five weeks of summer school and distribute it throughout the school year.

“If we had an outbreak these weeks aren’t counted as our regular school day calendar. We actually have a two-week cushion first week in January and it’s really helped out because of the increase of COVID activity in and around our community, he said.

He explained that with the adjustments to the calendar, students are able to socially distance themselves with only three to four students per classroom.

Alejos said there was some initial hesitation from the community, but it is working out to slow the spread.

“We started presenting this to the community around February or March so that we could explain to them and express to them what we were doing. Little did we know back then that we would have an outbreak come January of 2022,” he said.

Alejos said classes will fully return on Jan 18.

According to Lasara ISD’s COVID-19 tracker, as of today, there have been seven students and two staff reported positive cases.

Several school districts provide updates through their website’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Weslaco ISD’s latest numbers on their COVID-19 dashboard show 3544 students and 121 staff had confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of today.

McAllen ISD reported 488 students and 103 staff members tested positive as of last Friday, Jan. 7.

For more information, you can visit your school district’s website.