HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Texas Education Agency is now requiring school districts to notify families and close contacts of any student or staff member who has tested positive for COVID-19 or is suspected of having the virus.
President of Houston American Federation of Teachers, Jackie Anderson, said this is a step in the right direction.
"We already knew that this was the best option to help mitigate the spread," Anderson said. "Parents have the right to know if their children have been exposed to COVID."
According to the TEA, when a student or staff member contracts COVID-19 or is suspected of having COVID-19, they must follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and quarantine for at least 10 days or until they have a negative test result.
The school district will have to notify those who may have been in close contact, per the CDC definition. Those who were in close contact can then quarantine for 10 days or opt out by presenting a COVID-19 negative test result.
Anderson said Houston ISD is providing 10 additional sick days for its staff and a $500 stipend incentive for staff who are fully vaccinated. The district will also offer a virtual option for some students.
President of Aldine's AFT, Candis Houston, said she too was elated about the change in TEA guidance. Houston said Aldine ISD is providing five additional sick days for educators but no virtual learning option.
"You can still be vaccinated, do the right things and still test positive. So, when you do, let's just be honest," Houston said. "Tell all the parties that need to be told, and let's get you the help and assistance that you need to get back to negative so you can come back to work or back to school."
Since each school district is implementing its own policies, which vary, it has caused some confusion as more students get ready for their first day back-to-school.
"There's so much room for either error or just to change the plans," Houston ISD parent Christina Quintero said. "I'm really curious with how they are going to deal with that. From what I know, they don't have enough information for [special education students] like my son. And then, I'm just curious to see if they have the virtual option. How will that reflect on their grades? And how that will really be handled. It will be interesting, but I know parents are just doing their best."
Both Quintero and Anderson said there are still concerns about the size of classes and some schools inability to social distance.
"For a parent like myself, concerned about my children, especially one that is immunocompromised, it's a nightmare," Quintero said. "The best thing I can do is teach my children to be conscious of others, be respectful, be mindful of others and just know that it's something that we have to work on and adapt to, at least in the near future."