5 takeaways from Texas' new guidance on COVID-19 protocols in schools

AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) -- The Texas Education Agency released new guidance on Thursday on COVID-19 protocols for schools and parents should be aware of the update.

This guidance, which takes effect immediately, replaces all other previous guidance from the TEA and addresses things like in-person learning, extracurricular sports and activities and anything else a student does on a regular school day.

Here are some key takeaways from the TEA's new guidance.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in schools are still to be reported, but there's no contact tracing.

If a person who has been in a school tests positive for the virus, the school must notify its local health department. That includes teachers, staff members, students or a visitor who was at the school.

The school must also submit a report to the Texas Department of State Health Services via an online form. That report must be submitted every Monday for the week before (Monday - Sunday.)

However, schools aren't required to conduct contract tracing.

"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," read the guidance.



Schools can't require anyone to wear a mask

In March, Gov. Greg Abbott signed an order not allowing schools to implement mask mandates past the beginning of June. Despite surging cases with the delta variant, Abbott recently said he wouldn't reverse course.

The TEA said school systems can't require students or staff to wear a mask.

"Other authority to require protective equipment, including masks, in an employment setting is not necessarily affected," said the TEA in its guidance.

Also, if anyone wants to wear a mask, school systems must allow it.

If a student contracts the virus, they physically can't come to school

The TEA is following guidance from the Department of State Health Services, saying schools must exclude students who are physically in the classroom and are actively sick with the virus or tested positive for the virus.

"If symptomatic, exclude until at least 10 days have passed since symptom onset, and fever free*, and other symptoms have improved. Children who test positive for COVID-19 but do not have any symptoms must stay home until at least 10 days after the day they were tested."

Parents, you're also being asked not to send your child to school if your child is experiencing COVID symptoms "until the conditions for re-entry are met."

To read more about the DSHS rule, including the conditions for ending the exclusion period and returning to school, visit the state's website.

Schools can return to remote learning if a student is sent home with COVID

During that exclusion period, the TEA said schools may switch to remote learning that's "consistent with the practice of remote conferencing outlined in the proposed Student Attendance Accounting Handbook (SAAH) rules."

Those rules can be found on the TEA's website.

Schools are also allowed to administer COVID tests

The TEA said to help mitigate the risk of asymptomatic people being on campuses, schools can conduct recurring COVID testing using rapid tests provided by the state or other sources.

Testing can be conducted with staff. However, schools must have prior written permission from parents in order for testing to be conducted on a student.
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