This page was updated on Sept. 10, 2021.
What guidance is available on mask wearing in school?
While Gov. Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38 includes that districts cannot require students or staff to wear masks and that school systems must allow individuals to wear a mask if they so choose, TEA notes that mask provisions of GA-38 are not being enforced as the result of ongoing litigation. TCTA is monitoring the ongoing lawsuits by local governments and other plaintiffs opposing the masks restriction and decisions by certain school districts that require masks on school buses and campuses. TEA will provide further guidance after the court issues are resolved.
Is there guidance for the 2021-22 school year for when students have COVID-19 and/or other individuals with a test-confirmed case have been in school?
Yes, per TEA’s public health guidance and as provided in this Department of State Health Services Rule, school systems must exclude students from attending school in person who are actively sick with COVID-19, who are suspected of being actively sick with COVID-19, or who have received a positive test result for COVID-19, and must immediately notify parents if this is determined while on campus. Parents must ensure they do not send a child to school on campus if the child has symptoms or is test-confirmed, until the conditions for re-entry are met. The readmission criteria includes that 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. This includes being fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever suppressing medications. Fever is a temperature of 100° Fahrenheit (37.8° Celsius) or higher.
During the exclusion period, the school system may deliver remote instruction consistent with the practice of remote conferencing outlined in the proposed Student Attendance Accounting Handbook rules.
While school systems are not required to conduct COVID-19 case investigations, local public health entities have authority to investigate cases and are currently engaged in cooperative efforts on that front. The school must also submit a report to the Texas Department of State Health Services via an online form. The report must be submitted each Monday for the prior seven days (Monday-Sunday).
Consistent with school notification requirements for other communicable diseases, and consistent with legal confidentiality requirements, schools must notify all teachers, staff, and families of all students in a classroom or extracurricular or after-school program cohort if a test-confirmed COVID-19 case is identified among students, teachers or staff who participated in those classrooms or cohorts.
What about students who are in close contact to a student who has COVID-19?
Per TEA’s public health guidance, school systems are not required to conduct COVID-19 contact tracing. If school systems are made aware that a student is a close contact, the school system should notify the student’s parents. Parents of students who are determined to be close contacts of an individual with COVID-19 may opt to keep their students at home during the recommended stay-at-home period. Per CDC, the stay-at-home period can end for students experiencing no symptoms on Day 10 after close contact exposure, if no subsequent COVID-19 testing is performed. Alternately, students can end the stay-at-home period if they receive a negative result from a PCR acute infection test after the close contact exposure ends. Individuals who are fully vaccinated may not need to follow the stay-at home period.
In addition, schools may choose to require students who live with a COVID-19 positive individual to stay at home during the stay-at-home period if they are in an area with high or rising COVID case rates. Parents of these household-based close contact students may also opt to keep their students at home during the recommended stay-at-home period.
As a reference, close contact determinations are generally based on guidance outlined by the CDC, which defines close contact as "someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (for example, three individual 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes)." Exception: In the K–12 indoor classroom setting, the close contact definition excludes students who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) if both the infected student and the exposed student(s) correctly and consistently wore well-fitting masks the entire time. * This exception does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting.
What about staff who have COVID-19 or who are close contacts?
Per TEA’s public health guidance, school systems must exclude staff from attending school in person who are actively sick with COVID-19, who are suspected of being actively sick with COVID-19, or who have received a positive test result for COVID-19. Staff may return when the re-entry conditions have been met, as described in the DSHS rule used for students. For staff who are not fully vaccinated who meet the close contact threshold with a COVID-19 positive individual, it is recommended that the staff remain off campus during the stay-at-home period, but this is a local employment policy decision. For staff who meet the close contact threshold with a COVID-19 positive individual, if these staff continue to work on campus, rapid testing must be performed periodically for 10 days post-exposure.
Is there guidance on COVID-19 testing?
Yes, per TEA’s public health guidance in order to help mitigate the risk of asymptomatic individuals being on campuses, school systems may provide and/or conduct recurring COVID-19 testing using rapid on-site antigen and off-site laboratory testing provided by the state or other sources through the end of the SY 21-22. Off-site testing results will be available within 24-48 hours. Testing can be conducted with staff and students voluntarily. Prior written permission of parents is required for students under the age of 18. All school-based personnel conducting the testing must comply with any training requirements. All results of the tests will be reported through the appropriate web-based system.