HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The state's largest school district will soon be welcoming thousands of students back to campuses for in-person learning as it continues to monitor the effects of the pandemic.
On Monday, Oct. 19, HISD will kick off face-to-face instruction.
Meanwhile, the district is already tracking 71 COVID-19 cases, 61 of which are infected staff members, according to their online dashboard.
The district has put together a 26-page reopening plan and a 133-page communicable disease plan, which include new measures for face-to-face learning such as temperature checks for every student each morning.
Reconfigured classrooms mean desks will be six feet apart whenever possible, but parents should be prepared for some students to sit closer than that.
A strict mask policy means loose fitting face coverings will not be allowed and reusable masks must be washed daily.
Social distancing in the cafeteria could mean some students will be eating lunch in their classrooms.
Plus, closed campuses mean parents cannot swing by to drop off lunch or personal items.
If a student begins to show symptoms of the virus at school, a teacher will send the student to the campus nurse for evaluation.
If the nurse suspects the student is showing signs of COVID-19, the student will be quarantined on campus and a parent will be required to pick up the student within 30 minutes.
All siblings of that student must also go home. According to HISD, the family is required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
"I would not be surprised for at least the first few weeks that our health professionals err on the side of caution, particularly given the fact that the district is set up for virtual learning," said Zeph Capo with the American Federation of Teachers. "If kids need to quarantine or if they need be at home to recover from illness, they still have the opportunity to continue their education from home."
Capo said he's happy to see the district take a strong stance on gauging for illness symptoms, but because HISD is not mandating COVID-19 testing at all, he is still concerned.
"Frankly, I think we need to have some level of random testing of students and staff," said Capo.
Even after a student or staff member completes a 14-day quarantine, they will be allowed back on campus without having to show proof of a negative test.
"If there is a suspected case or you've had to quarantine, there needs to be a test result that comes back with that student," argued Capo.
He said the union is currently in discussions with the district about a COVID-19 testing policy.