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Texas student dons hazmat suit to take in-person exams

Dec. 18 (UPI) -- A Texas high school student arrived to take his final exams in a hazmat suit after his family said the district isn't doing enough to protect students and families from COVID-19.

Houston teenager Mason Kalkofen showed up to Spring Woods High School's campus in a full suit of personal protective gear after the school district mandated that virtual learners take their final exams on the school's campus.

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"I'm having to go in a hazmat suit," Kalkofen told KTRK-TV. "That way I can protect my family."

Kalkofen's mother, Margarita, said she is at a high risk of serious complications if she contracts COVID-19.

"I don't want to get sick," Margarita Kalkofen 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."

The family said they asked the school to allow the teenager to take his exams virtually, but the request was refused. They said multiple letters have been sent home informing families of positive coronavirus cases at the school.

Spring Branch Independent School District said officials "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."

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The district said Texas Education Agency guidelines call for students to take exams in person with a proctor present.

"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," the district said.

The high school previously halted all in-person learning for two weeks in September when 12 positive cases of the virus were reported at the school in a single week.

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