TMT File - First-graders play during recess at a Smith County elementary school earlier this year.

Five of Smith County's eight public schools reported new COVID-19 cases last week, with the vast majority of positives coming from students in grades 7-12 and staff members, according to state data.

In August, the Texas Education Agency and Texas Department of State Health Services announced that it would require schools to submit weekly COVID-19 data to be released on the DSHS website, and first began publishing district data last week.

The next day, however, the data was removed owing to "technical issues."

“On Sept. 24, slight discrepancies were discovered within the first round of COVID-19 district-level case data,” the TEA said in a statement. “Specifically, DSHS and TEA realized that two technical issues required remediation. The first resulted from integrating the school COVID case report data set with the school enrollment data set."

“The second was the addition of 275 reported student cases and 203 reported staff cases of COVID-19 submitted by districts after the initial submission period. In an effort at greater transparency and the most accurate case numbers, the cumulative case total was updated to reflect these new report submissions.”

According to the Texas Tribune, the data is still messy and challenging to comprehensively analyze. The district-by-district breakdown hides case numbers for districts with fewer than 50 students attending in person, to protect individuals' privacy, making it impossible to calculate exact percentages or totals.

Of the data that is not hidden, the broader analysis appears to remain unchanged: The vast majority of known cases among Texas public school students who have returned to classrooms were found in middle and high school students, the Tribune reported.

To date, districts said most infections were either contracted off campus or their source was unknown. A very small percentage of cases was reported as contracted at school.

This aligns with the data, updated on Thursday with new COVID-19 cases for the week of Sept. 21-27, now available for Smith County schools.

In Smith County, 42 new COVID-19 cases were reported to the state – with about 70% of all reported cases among students in grades 7-12 and staff members, according to the data.

Tyler ISD is the Smith County district that reported the largest increase, with nine student and five staff cases. The total cases reported at Tyler are now 46 students and 26 staff members.

In addition to reporting to the state, Tyler ISD has been providing more frequent COVID-19 updates on its own district website. As of Thursday afternoon, a total of 31 active cases were listed, although the district does not specify which of those are staff and which are students. Fifteen of those cases were reported on the website on or after Sept. 28 – meaning they arose after the most recent TEA reporting period had ended.

Bullard ISD reported seven new student cases and two new staff cases last week. According to the data, the total cases reported in the district are now 13 students and 12 staff.

In Chapel Hill ISD, six new student cases and three new staff cases were reported. The district has now reported 14 student cases and five staff cases overall.

At Troup ISD, one new student and one new staff case were reported. The new cases bring the district total to six students, all in grades 7-12, and two staff since the start of school.

Whitehouse ISD also reported four new cases among students and staff, respectively. The district's new total is 23 students and 16 staff.

While no cases were reported in Arp, Lindale and Winona last week, there are a handful of cases at each district from earlier in the school year.

This story includes reporting by Kristen Barton of the Longview News-Journal.

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