Contact Tracing Not Required By TEA, Local Districts Announce Policies

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Last week TEA released their COVID-19 guidance for the 2021-2022 school year. This year, unlike last, schools are not required to do contact tracing if someone tests positive for COVID. Yesterday Garland ISD reported 314 active cases of COVID-19 among students and staff.

According to TEA, schools must exclude students infected with COVID-19 for at least 10 days since the onset of symptoms, or 10 days after a positive test for children without symptoms.

We reached out to local districts in our area to ask about their COVID protocols and learning options.

Cedar Hill ISD

In the CHISD Superintendent’s daily message, Dr. Hudson wrote, “I am aware of the announcements made by Austin ISD, Dallas ISD and Houston ISD regarding their plans to defy the Governor’s order and mandate masks for staff and scholars.

I continue to look into this with the assistance of district leadership and the CHISD Board of Trustees; any changes will be communicated with the CHISD community.”

“As we prepare to safely open our campuses, the district will continue to limit visitors, volunteers and activities involving external groups or organizations. Any exception to this guidance must be approved by a school’s Executive Director of School Leadership and the district’s Health Services Team.”

From the CHISD Blueprint: CHISD believes clear and consistent communication with families regarding COVID-19 is important and will notify families of positive cases.
CHISD Communications will send a daily email to all staff and families listing the COVID-19 positive cases reported to the district. Each notification will list the campuses and building facilities with a positive case and will be shared by email no later than 5 p.m.

CHISD returns to campus on August 12.

Dallas ISD

Effective today masks are temporarily being required for all students, staff and visitors on Dallas ISD campuses.

DeSoto ISD

“We will are reviewing continually developing guidance from TEA regarding virtual learning options for students this year. At this time, DeSoto ISD plans to open the school year with in-person instruction and will adjust as guidance related to the pandemic evolves.

We have a team of leaders who continue to monitor COVIID-related data, science, and guidelines that meet regularly to assess our approach to COVID mitigation. As a school system, we have been applauded for our extensive responses and protocols to COVID-safety and will continue to develop responses that prioritize the safety and wellness of our school community.” DeSoto ISD starts school on August 16.

Mansfield ISD

Mansfield ISD cannot mandate the wearing of face coverings based on Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order. Face coverings will be optional for students, staff and visitors. (Executive Order GA-38)

The use of desk barriers will be allowed. Notification letters will be sent to all campus staff, students and parents for a confirmed COVID-19 case on campus. First day of school August 18.

Midlothian ISD

From a letter sent to parents in MISD, “We are highly encouraging the use of masks due to the uptick in COVID-19 cases in Ellis county.”

The district says daily notification of positive cases will not be reported and the MISD COVID-19 dashboard has been discontinued-subject to change. Plexiglass is available as needed and can be requested by the parent for use in the classroom or cafeteria. First day of school August 16.

Red Oak ISD

From the ROISD website: “We continue to recommend masks for indoor activities for all individuals, along with social distancing, self-screening, and handwashing/sanitizing. By executive order of Governor Abbott, we cannot mandate masks, so this continues to be an individual choice.” First day of school is August 18.

TEA guidance as of 8/5/2021

The guidance in this document is authorized by Executive Order GA-38, which has the effect of state law under Section 418.012 of the Texas Government Code. Executive Order GA-38 provides TEA with the legal authority to publish requirements for the operation of public school systems during the COVID-19 pandemic. This document takes effect immediately, replacing all prior guidance. TEA recommends that public school systems consult with their local public health authorities and local legal counsel before making final decisions regarding the implementation of this guidance.

This guidance addresses:

• On-campus instruction

• Non-UIL extracurricular sports and activities

• Any other activities that students must complete

 

View CDC recommendations on their website.

Required actions if individuals with test-confirmed cases have been in a school

1. If an individual who has been in a school is test-confirmed to have COVID-19, the school must notify its local health department, in accordance with applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations, including confidentiality requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

2. Upon receipt of information that any teacher, staff member, student, or visitor at a school is test-confirmed to have COVID-19, the school must submit a report to the Texas Department of State Health Services via an online form. The report must be submitted each Monday for the prior seven days (Monday-Sunday).

Masks

Per GA-38, school systems cannot require students or staff to wear a mask. GA-38 addresses government-mandated face coverings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other authority to require protective equipment, including masks, in an employment setting is not necessarily affected by GA-38.

School systems must allow individuals to wear a mask if they choose to do so.

Editor’s Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday recommended that all children over the age of 2 wear masks when returning to school this year, regardless of vaccination status.

Students who have COVID-19

As provided in this Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Rule, school systems must exclude students from attending school in person who are actively sick with COVID-19 or who have received a positive test result for COVID-19. Parents must ensure they do not send a child to school on campus if the child has COVID-19 symptoms or is test-confirmed with COVID-19, 2 until the conditions for re-entry are met. See the DSHS rule for more details, including the conditions for ending the exclusion period and returning to school.

During the exclusion period, the school system may deliver remote instruction consistent with the practice of remote conferencing outlined in the proposed Student Attendance Accounting Handbook (SAAH) rules.

To help mitigate the risk of asymptomatic individuals being on campuses, school systems may provide and/or conduct recurring COVID-19 testing using rapid tests provided by the state or other sources. Testing can be conducted with staff. With prior written permission of parents, testing can be conducted with students.

Students who are close contacts

As a reference, close contact determinations are generally based on guidance outlined by the CDC, which notes that individuals who are vaccinated are not considered close contacts. Given the data from 2020-21 showing very low COVID-19 transmission rates in a classroom setting and data demonstrating lower transmission rates among children than adults, school systems are not required to conduct COVID-19 contact tracing. If school systems are made aware that a student is a close contact, the school system should notify the student’s parents.

Parents of students who are determined to be close contacts of an individual with COVID-19 may opt to keep their students at home during the recommended stay-at-home period.

For individuals who are determined to be close contacts, a 14-day stay-at-home period was previously advised by the CDC based on the incubation period of the virus. CDC has since updated their guidance, and the stay-at-home period can end for students experiencing no symptoms on Day 10 after close contact exposure, if no subsequent COVID-19 testing is performed.

Alternately, students can end the stay-at-home period if they receive a negative result from a PCR acute infection test after the close contact exposure ends. During the stay-at-home period, the school system may deliver remote instruction consistent with the practice of remote conferencing outlined in the proposed Student Attendance Accounting Handbook (SAAH) rules.