WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — In-person classes are still in session throughout the Wichita Falls school district, though the website shows a steady increase in positive Covid-19 cases.

According to WFISD’s weekly update Friday, January 14, there are 358 active Covid-19 cases among students and 159 among staff members.

Of those numbers, McNiel Middle School has the highest number of cases, with 73 students and 21 staff members active. Wichita Falls High School is next, with 63 active cases among students and nine among staff and Rider High School with 52 student cases and 10 staff.

That is a dramatic increase in cases since the last report Monday, Jan. 10, which showed 13 staff members and 67 students.

Concerned parents reached out to our newsroom about classes being combined because of these staff shortages.

WFISD’s Communications Officer Ashley Thomas provided a statement on the combining of some classes.

Schools throughout the district are combining classes due to the number of teachers and students that are out due to COVID and other illnesses. But, this has happened in prior years as well. This occurs when we do not have substitute teachers available to fill the open positions. This is not an ideal situation. However, our teachers are doing an amazing job and making the best out of a tough situation.

With the number of students in our district, it is much more difficult to close school. Parents would have to take off work to care for their children, and many parents don’t have the luxury of doing that. We also do not have extra time built into our calendar for staff/student absences because of the teacher planning days that were built into this year’s calendar. Canceling school right now would require staff and students to come to school over Spring Break or stay in school after Memorial Day.

We will continue to monitor numbers and make the necessary adjustments to keep our staff and students safe. As always, we are in need of substitute teachers. If people in the community are interested in helping our schools during this time, please visit our website or call 235-1000.

Ashley Thomas, WFISD Communications Officer

Thomas said they are in need of substitute teachers and encourages anyone interested to call or visit their website. The district is also exploring an incentive pay plan for substitute teachers.