We have updated this, our original post on the Ebola connection in the Belton Independent School District, to reflect new details that have come to light and new events that have transpired since we initially reported the story on October 15. Please continue to check in as new details unfold.

Parents of children at Sparta Elementary and North Belton Middle School were sent an email on October 15th, 2014 informing them of a connection to the nurse now battling Ebola in a Dallas hospital. On the nurse's return flight from Cleveland on Monday, October 13th, two students in Belton ISD were on the plane.

The following is the email received by parents of Belton ISD students at the affected schools.

Dear Parents:

Your child’s health and safety is our top priority at Sparta Elementary School. When issues of concern are brought to our attention, we want to share that information with you.

This afternoon we were made aware that one of our students traveled on Frontier Airlines Flight #1143 from Cleveland to Dallas on Monday and attended classes on Tuesday and Wednesday. Another passenger on that flight has since been diagnosed with the Ebola virus.

It is important to know that individuals are not contagious until symptoms appear.
According to statements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Frontier Airlines, the passenger did not show any symptoms during the flight, and the risk of exposure for other passengers on the flight was low.

The student who traveled on the flight is not currently showing any symptoms and is being monitored by the Bell County Health Department and the Texas Department of State Health Services. Because of this, there is no imminent risk to your child.

Please know that Belton ISD is in regular communication with the family and officials from the state and local health departments. We will provide more information as it becomes available.

For more information about the Ebola virus, please visit this link from the CDC:http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/pdf/ebola-factsheet.pdf.

At 6:30 p.m. on the evening of October 15th, Belton ISD officials held a press conference to address the situation, which you can listen to, below.

At 8:57 p.m. that evening, Belton ISD officials sent another email to students' parents, informing them of a change in policy after hundreds of critical comments flooded the Belton ISD Facebook page and phone lines. The email read as follows.

Dear Parents,

I would like to update you on the health advisories that were sent to parents of students at Sparta Elementary and North Belton Middle School.

This afternoon we were made aware that two of our students traveled on Frontier Airlines Flight #1143 from Cleveland to Dallas on Monday and attended classes on Tuesday and Wednesday. Another passenger on that flight has since been diagnosed with the Ebola virus.

While the state and local health departments have cleared these students to attend school, their parents have decided to keep their children at home for 21 days from the day that they took the flight.

Even though the two students will not be in class, I want to emphasize that the state and local health departments have determined that they are considered to be at extremely low risk.

It is safe for your students to attend school.

Regular school attendance is essential for students to make the most of their learning, and absences may disrupt a student’s mastery of the materials.

I’ve received some questions about absences and wanted to clarify that our normal attendance policy will be in effect tomorrow. You can find the policy online in our parent and student handbooks.

We already have plans in place to address communicable diseases. Our health services coordinator regularly reviews those procedures with the nurses and other staff members at each school. Our custodial staff will also be doing additional cleaning and disinfecting in classrooms at the two schools.

Please know that I remain in close communication with the family and officials from the state and local health departments. Keeping you up-to-date is a priority for me, and if more information becomes available, we will share it with you.

Tomorrow will be a great day in our schools, and I hope that your student will be there!

Still later that evening, around midnight, Belton ISD once again revised their policies in another email to parents.

Dear Parents,

Three Belton ISD schools will be closed on Thursday, October 16, 2014.

The campuses that will be closed are North Belton Middle School, Sparta Elementary and the Belton Early Childhood School.

Late tonight, I learned that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are re-evaluating the health risk to some passengers on Frontier Airlines Flight #1143 from Cleveland to Dallas. At this time, we do not know if this will include either of the two Belton ISD students who traveled on the flight.

The two students attend North Belton Middle School and Sparta Elementary. Some pre-kindergarten students at the Belton Early Childhood School transfer through Sparta Elementary at the beginning and end of the school day.

Canceling classes at the three campuses will allow us to thoroughly clean and disinfect the schools and buses that served them this week. It will also allow health officials additional time to re-assess the health risk to passengers on the plane.

I’m frustrated that we didn’t learn until late tonight that the CDC was re-evaluating the health risk. The health and safety of our students is my first priority.

All other campuses will be open tomorrow, and it is safe for students to attend those schools.

I will remain in close contact with state and local health officials. By law they have the authority to direct our response, and we rely on their expertise and the information that they provide to make decisions.

As more information becomes available, I will share it with you.

The next day, October 16th, Belton ISD held an additional press conference at 2:00 p.m., which you can listen to, below.

This press conference was followed by another email to parents, which read as follows.

Dear Parents,

North Belton Middle School, Sparta Elementary and the Belton Early Childhood School will remain closed on Friday, October 17, 2014 to allow us to clean and disinfect the three campuses.

All other campuses will be open tomorrow, and it is safe for students to attend those schools.

After consulting with local health officials and other experts, we decided to hire the same hazardous materials cleaning team that cleaned and sterilized facilities in Dallas. The team will arrive tomorrow morning and will disinfect North Belton Middle School and Sparta Elementary. Those are the campuses attended by the two students who traveled on Frontier Airlines Flight #1143. This approach exceeds the recommendations made by local health officials.

Additionally the district’s custodial and maintenance staff will conduct a thorough and deep cleaning of the Belton Early Childhood School. That campus was closed primarily, because pre-kindergarten students transit through their neighborhood elementary schools at the beginning and end of the day. In addition with Sparta Elementary closed, no one would be on that campus to supervise and feed the pre-kindergarten students.

The students who traveled on the flight did not ride on a bus this week. However all of the district’s buses were disinfected earlier today out of an abundance of caution. They will also be disinfected again this evening.

At this time, I anticipate that all of our schools will be open as normal on Monday.
I will remain in close contact with state and local health officials, and as more information becomes available, I will share it with you.

On the evening of Friday, October 17th, Belton ISD Superintendent Dr. Susan Kincannon sent an email to students' parents announcing that all Belton school campuses would be open on Monday, October 20th. The email read as follows.

Dear Parents,

All Belton ISD schools will be open as normal on Monday.

A hazardous materials cleaning team has finished disinfecting North Belton Middle School and Sparta Elementary, and the district’s custodial and maintenance staff has completed a thorough and deep cleaning of the Belton Early Childhood School.

The health and safety of our students is my first priority, and these steps exceed the recommendations of local health officials.

I know many of you will be attending some of the student activities happening this weekend. Our band is competing in the UIL Regional Marching Contest. Theater students are presenting their fall play, Twelve Angry Jurors, in the Performing Arts Center at BHS. The swim team travels to Southlake. And much more… These are great celebrations of our students’ many talents and skills, and I know that you will enjoy them.

Have a good weekend!

We will continue to update this post as new details become available. In the meantime, you can read the thoughts of our personality, Jamie Garrett, himself a parent of a Belton ISD student.