TEA RETURN TO SCHOOL GUIDANCE SUMMARY Fall 2020
Executive Summary of Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) Planning Guidance
Released 7/7/20 & Updated 7/17/20 SY 20-21 Public Health
Provided by Meroney Public Affairs, LLC
AUTHORS’ NOTE: Meroney Public Affairs is providing this executive summary as an informal, shorthand, easy reference document for the use of parents and school staff. It does not constitute legal advice. It is written in layman’s terms to help parents better understand school and legal jargon. It has been edited for brevity. Special note should be taken of whether the Guidance provided by TEA is required (typically using the term “must”) or permissive (typically using the term “may” or “should”). Permissive items are advisory; the schools may or may not choose to implement them.
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SCHOOL REOPENING GENERAL PROCEDURES:
- First 4 weeks – schools may “temporarily limit access to on-campus instruction;”
- School Boards may vote to extend this transition period another 4 weeks (total of 8 weeks);
- Some families opting for “on campus” may temporarily get distance during this transition;
- Any family without internet access and/or devices will get on-campus during this transition.
DISTANCE VS. VIRTUAL, ATTENDANCE, CREDIT REQUIREMENTS:
- At least one week prior to the start of school, schools must post a summary of the plan they will follow to mitigate COVID-19 spread;
- Students must still attend 90% of the days a course is offered in order to get credit for the course and/or move to the next grade; this may be done virtually;
- Families who choose virtual instruction can switch to an on-campus instructional setting; however, school systems may limit these transitions to occur only at the end of a grading period;
- If a parent requests virtual instruction and their school does not offer it, the parent may enroll in another school that does offer it for transfer students;
- School systems must provide daily on-campus attendance options, subject to school closure and the exceptions listed in TEA guidance documents;
- High schools may offer a “less than daily” on campus option if there is a need to reduce the total count of people on campus at one time to maintain social distancing.
HEALTH & HYGIENE AT SCHOOL: General
- Schools should attempt to have hand sanitizer and/or hand washing stations at each entrance and in every classroom. Students, teachers, staff, and campus visitors should be encouraged to sanitize and/or wash hands frequently. School systems are encouraged to teach good hand washing technique, have students engage in supervised handwashing for at least 20 seconds at least twice per day, before eating and after going to the bathroom;
- Everyone at the school should be encouraged to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and/or their elbows. Used tissues should be thrown in the trash, hands washed immediately or hand sanitizer should be used.
Campuses should institute more frequent cleaning practices by janitorial staff and students cleaning their own space.
- Schools should arrange for additional cleaning and disinfecting of common surfaces throughout the day (door handles, common tables/desks, shared supplies, laptops or tablets).
- Schools should arrange for cleaning of commonly-touched surfaces in classrooms between different class groups, if used by multiple class groups.
- Whenever possible, schools should open windows or otherwise work to improve air flow by allowing outside air to circulate in the building.
- On the first day, school systems must provide instruction to students on appropriate hygiene and other mitigation practices.
- Campuses must plan for entry, exit, and transition procedures that reduce large group gatherings (of students and/or adults) in close proximity. This may include:
- Staggering school start and end times;
- Assigning students to specific entries;
- Limiting entrance to one at a time with six feet of separation when waiting;
- Encouraging parents to remain outside during drop-off and pick-up.
Schools should consider eliminating assemblies and other large groupings;
- Schools should consider adding dividers between bathroom sinks and other crowded areas;
- Schools should consider limiting close contact at lunch. This could include:
- Requiring students to eat lunch at their desks;
- Seats that are spaced at least 6 feet apart;
- Dividers on cafeteria tables;
- Individually plated meals with disposable goods at food service.
- DEFINITION: non-medical grade disposable face masks, cloth face coverings (over the nose and mouth), or full-face shields to protect eyes, nose, and mouth. Face shields may be superior.
- Schools are required to comply with the governor’s executive order regarding the wearing of masks (all adults and children 10 years old and older must wear one indoors at school and outdoors if not possible to maintain 6 feet of distance).
- Schools may require the use of masks or face shields for other students for whom it is developmentally appropriate.
- Schools must require them when entering and exiting facilities and practice areas and when not actively engaging in those activities.
- Schools may allow students who are actively exercising to remove masks or face shields, as long as they maintain at least six feet of distance from others.
- Schools must require them as students arrange themselves in positions that will allow them to maintain safe distancing.
- Students should be encouraged to practice social distancing when it does not interfere with the educational experience.
- Schools should consider placing desks six feet apart when possible. Where not possible, schools should plan for more frequent hand washing and consider whether increased airflow from the outdoors is possible.
- Use of Non-Classroom Spaces: students should gather outside if feasible;
- Schools may continue to offer extracurricular activities using this guidance and UIL guidance, even for non-UIL activities;
- School systems may open facilities to the public.
- School systems should consider:
- Requiring hand sanitizer upon boarding the bus;
- Opening windows to allow outside air to circulate in the bus;
- Encouraging families to drop students off, carpool, or walk;
- Thoroughly cleaning buses with windows open after each bus trip, focusing on seats, steering wheels, knobs, and door handles.
VISITS TO SCHOOLS
- School systems should restrict visits to those essential to school operations.
- Employees must meet the work expectations set by their employers;
- School systems should work with staff to ensure safety;
this could include allowing staff to return remotely and/or modification of schedules to limit staff & employee contact with others;
- Teachers and staff who are in high risk categories may be entitled to paid leave under the Family First Cares Act (FFCRA) in addition to leave already accrued;
- Employees should be trained specifically on the protocols outlined by TEA AND their district’s practices;
- School systems should work with staff to ensure safety;
- Parents/adults can visit schools, if permitted by the system’s policies; all visitors must follow the prevention and mitigation requirements.
- School systems should reduce in-person staff meetings. If necessary and cannot be done via electronic means, school meetings should require masks, social distance, dividers, and outdoor airflow.
COVID SYMPTOMS – DEFINED:
- Feeling feverish or temp of 100 degrees or higher;
- Loss of taste or smell;
- Difficulty breathing;
- Shortness of breath;
- Sore Throat;
- Shaking or exaggerated shivering;
- Significant muscle pain or ache;
“CLOSE CONTACT” WITH A LAB CONFIRMED COVID + PERSON DEFINED AS:
- Either of the below exposures within the last 14 days while infected person was infectious (defined as 2 days prior to the onset of symptoms in that person or 2 days prior to the positive lab test if person if asymptomatic):
- Direct exposure to infectious secretions (being coughed on while not wearing a mask or shield) OR
- Being within 6 feet for a cumulative 15 minutes.
SCREENING / RULES ON WHEN TO STAY HOME:
- Teachers and staff must:
- self screen every day, this should include taking your own temperature;
- self report any symptoms or confirmed cases & stay off campus until meeting re-entry conditions;
- self report any close contact with a confirmed case and stay off campus for 14 days;
- Parents must:
- keep any child with symptoms or confirmed case at home and move to virtual learning until they meet re-entry conditions;
- keep any child with close contact with a confirmed case at home for 14 days and move to virtual learning during that time;
- Schools must immediately separate any student who shows COVID-19 symptoms while at school until the student can be picked up;
- Schools should clean the areas used by the individual who shows COVID-19 symptoms while at school (student, teacher, or staff) as soon as is feasible;
- Students who report feeling feverish should be given an immediate temperature check to determine if they are symptomatic for COVID-19;
- Schools can also screen students through questions by telephone, electronic means or in person; temp checks not recommended but allowed;
- Screening questions can only ask Yes or No to the overall question of whether you are symptomatic (CANNOT ask you to indicate yes/no to each individual symptom).
- Information on symptoms must be destroyed once individual meets criteria for re-entry.
CONFIRMED OR SUSPECTED CASES – RULES ON WHEN TO RETURN:
- Anyone with a positive test or showing symptoms must stay home during “infection period;” can’t return until school screens and confirms they meet:
- IF Positive test/lab confirmed:
- Minimum 3 days pass since recovery (no fever, no fever meds); AND
- Improvement in symptoms; AND
- Minimum 10 days since first symptom.
- IF symptomatic but not professionally treated or tested:
- Presumed Positive – must meet above 3 criteria to return;
- Presumed Positive (see above), can return earlier if:
- Doctor’s note clears for return AND confirms alternative diagnosis;
- 2 negative “acute infection tests” at least 24 hours apart from an approved COVID testing location listed at Department of Health Services Site.
- IF Positive test/lab confirmed:
NOTIFICATION RULES FOR CONFIRMED CASES:
- If a person with a positive/lab confirmed cases has been in school, the school must:
- Notify all teachers, staff, and families of all students in a school, consistent with school notification requirements on communicable diseases;
- Notify the local Health Department;
- Close off areas heavily used by the person confirmed positive for at least 3 days or until non-porous surfaces can be disinfected.