TEA Guidelines for 2020-2021 Released

school buses in parking lot
Texas school buses parked at Mansfield ISD stadium

TEA Says Students Returning This Fall Must Wear Face Masks

It seems like the hot topic of the summer is: what does school look like this fall? When the buses start rolling, will kids be required to wear masks? Can you expect and enforce young kids to maintain six feet apart? And, is a return in August just too soon if coronavirus cases in your state are surging?

Many parents and teachers were anxiously awaiting guidance from the Texas Education Agency. Today, TEA released comprehensive guidelines concerning COVID-19 for the upcoming school year.

What about parents that don’t feel comfortable sending their kids back to the building?

“Any parent may request that their student be offered virtual instruction from any school system that offers such instruction.”

If a parent who chooses virtual instruction wants their child to switch to an on-campus instructional setting, they can do so, but school systems are permitted to limit these transitions to occur only at the end of a grading period, if it will be beneficial to the student’s instructional quality.

If a parent requests virtual instruction and the school doesn’t offer it, the parent may enroll in another school that does offer it for transfer students.

Will Kids & Teachers Be Required To Wear Masks At School?

Yes. The state education agency says face masks will be required in school buildings. The only exception is if the school is in a county with less than 20 positive cases. Mask requirement will be in effect for as long as Governor Abbott’s mandate stands. However, kids 10 and under are exempt from face mask requirement.

What about during PE? Schools can allow students to remove their face masks while exercising, as long as they maintain 6-feet social distancing from others who are not wearing a face mask.

kids wearing face coverings
Kids wear face masks from Rafi Nova

“”When it is impractical for students to wear masks or face shields during those activities, schools must require students, teachers, staff, and visitors to wear masks or face shields when entering and exiting facilities and practice areas and when not actively engaging in those activities,” the TEA said.

TEA Outlined Four Practices For Schools To Follow

Provide Notice: Requirements for parental and public notices.

School systems must post for parents and the general public, a summary of their plans to mitigate COVID-19 spread in their schools. This notice must be issued one week prior to the start of on-campus activities and instruction. It should be posted on the school’s homepage or in another visible area on the website.

Prevent: Required practices to prevent the virus from entering the school.

School systems must require teachers and staff to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms before coming onto campus each day (this includes staff taking their own temperature). Parents must ensure they do not send a child to school on campus if the child has COVID-19 symptoms.

Parents may also opt to have their students receive remote instruction if their child has had close contact with an individual who is lab-confirmed with COVID-19 until the 14-day incubation period has passed. School systems may consider screening students for COVID-19 as well. Schools are not required to screen students, but have the option. The guidance continues: Regularly performing a forehead temperature check of otherwise asymptomatic students in school is not recommended, but the practice is also not prohibited by this guidance.

How will Schools respond to COVID-19 on campus?

RESPOND: Required practices to respond to a lab-confirmed case in the school.

If there is a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19, school districts are required to notify the local health department. They must close off the areas that are heavily used by that person with the positive case, whether its a student, teacher of staff, until the non-porous surfaces in those areas can be disinfected, the TEA said.

Schools must also notify all teachers, staff and families of all students in a school if there is a case identified in a person who participates in any activities on-campus, the TEA said. *Its important to note reporting is required of a lab confirmed case. However, currently results are taking an average of 7 days, so the notification may occur days or more than a week after the individual has attended the campus.*

MITIGATE: Recommended and required practices to reduce likely spread inside the school.

Schools should attempt to have hand sanitizer and/or handwashing stations with soap and water at each entrance. They should also attempt to provide hand sanitizer and/or handwashing stations with soap and water in every classroom.
Students, teachers, staff, and campus visitors should be encouraged to sanitize and/or wash hands frequently.

Campuses should institute more frequent cleaning practices, including additional cleaning by janitorial staff. They should provide the opportunity for children to clean their own spaces before and after they are used, in ways that are safe and developmentally appropriate.

Whenever possible, schools should open windows or otherwise work to improve air flow by allowing outside air to circulate in the building.

Teachers Respond To TEA Guidelines

One teacher commented on TEA’s FB page, “Now is the time for teachers to receive hazard pay. We need to be compensated for the high risk of returning face to face.”

Another teacher said they were already stocking up on disinfectants and cleaning supplies for their classroom. They weren’t going to rely on the district to provide them with adequate supplies. While another responded, “Someone should define the word “comprehensive” for TEA; this certainly isn’t it.”

Parents Still Have Questions

What happens when a child moves from in person classroom to online instruction while quarantined? Do they keep the same teacher or are they assigned a new one? Who will enforce the mask requirement and how? Will this impact specials like choir or recess?

Parents, teacher, students if you’d like to share your thoughts/concerns in a future article, please email editor@focusdailynews.com.