Teen takes exams in hazmat suit as family says school district won't take COVID-19 seriously

HOUSTON, Texas -- A Houston student showed up to school Wednesday wearing head-to-toe personal protective gear, and his family said his school district isn't taking the pandemic seriously enough.

The Kalkofens wanted the district to waive a requirement that virtual learners take some of their final exams on Spring Woods High School's campus.

Mason Kalkofen, the student, said he was worried about contracting the virus on campus and spreading it to his mother, Margarita, who is at high risk and could suffer severe medical complications.

"I'm having to go in a hazmat suit," he said. "That way I can protect my family."

Mason's mother and father told our sister station KTRK-TV that they tried every avenue to get the district to make an exemption. They also noted they've received multiple letters this month about positive cases on campus.

"I don't want to get sick," Margarita said. "I don't want to end up in a hospital. I don't want my husband to end up in the hospital because the school district doesn't care."

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Spring Branch Independent School District released a lengthy statement, saying it's following state guidelines and safety is of utmost importance during this pandemic.

"Spring Woods High School has worked with the families of distance learners to provide testing accommodations for approximately 50 students. Starting today, these students will be dropped off at the high school after in-person learning students have left the campus. Students will test outdoors at individual tables set 10 feet apart. Before entering the high school courtyard, temperatures will be taken of all testing students. PPE, hand sanitizers and other LearnSBISD health and safety protocols will be in place from required facial masks to proper social distancing. One adult test proctor will be assigned per six students.

Regarding the family that contacted your team, Spring Woods High School has offered the family multiple testing options, including the option of the student testing alone in a room with only one proctor present wearing PPE. The family refused all options.

Spring Branch ISD high school principals have been committed to working with families who have testing concerns or unique situational needs. The district places a high priority on academic integrity along with its single-focused goal known as T-2-4 where every district graduate will attain a technical certificate, military training, or a 2- or 4-year college degree. In this regard, we agree with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) guidance allowing districts to require students to come on campus to complete required assessments that play a significant role in determining class rank, or as required for graduation or grade-level promotion, where it cannot be reasonable and equitably administered remotely. SBISD testing will follow the health and safety guidelines of the LearnSBISD plan.

Total enrollment at Spring Woods High is 2,064 students. The total number of COVID cases so far this school year is 25, with 17 students and 8 employees reporting positive. This represents less than 1 percent (0.82 percent) of Spring Woods High students who have reported testing positive."
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