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No face-to-face classes, extra-curricular activities until after Sept. 7, San Antonio health department says

School districts must come up with plan to resume classes on campus no later than Aug. 21

(AP Photo/Jon Super)
(AP Photo/Jon Super) (Jon Super)

SAN ANTONIO – School districts in San Antonio cannot reopen schools for on-campus face-to-face instruction until after Sept. 7, according to a directive issued Friday by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.

The directive states that students will have access to academics via virtual learning and that teachers can use classrooms for video streaming if they are alone in a classroom and the school occupancy doesn’t exceed 10%.

There will be no in-person extra-curricular activities, including athletics, until campuses have resumed on-campus instruction, the directive said. That means at least the first two weeks of high school football will be delayed.

School districts have been ordered to come up with a written plan with safety and health protocols to resume on-campus instruction no later than Aug. 21.

“We recognize the importance of re-opening schools,” said San Antonio Metro Health Medical Director Dr. Junda Woo. “This directive considers the higher risk for spread of COVID-19 in schools due to their confined spaces, and the challenge for children in following social distancing and hygiene guidelines. Re-opening will happen in phases, based on COVID-19 metrics.”

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Woo discussed the requirements with local stakeholders and education leaders to come up with the directive. “(The Sept. 7 date) gives us a little more time to figure out what we can do and watch those health indicators to see whether they are improving,” said Dr. Colleen Bridger, assistant city manager, during the daily briefing.

(See the full directive at the bottom of this article)

Earlier on Friday, the Texas Education Agency announced that school districts will now be able to temporarily limit in-person classes for the first four weeks of school, an extension of one week compared to past guidance. After that, school instruction can remain remote for an additional four weeks, if needed, with a board-approved waiver request to the agency.

Several San Antonio school districts had already made the decision to start the year online, including San Antonio Independent School District, North East Independent School District and Northside Independent School District. Some schools have already pushed back their early-to-mid-August start dates to later in the month.

Under the TEA guidance, schools are required to comply with the governor’s mask order. Anyone who is exhibiting symptoms of the virus or has a lab-confirmed test must stay home throughout the infection period and cannot return until symptoms have improved and at least three days have passed since recovery, according to the guidance.

Upon confirmation of the infection, the school must notify its local health department, close off areas that are heavily used by the infected individual and schools must notify “all teachers, staff, and families of all students” in the school if the person has a lab-confirmed case.

“Hopefully, we’ll be in a much better place by Sept. 7,” said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.

Find more information in our Back to School section.

“The Health Directive states the following:

* School systems must not re-open schools for on-campus, face-to-face instruction until after September 7th, 2020. A school may accommodate families without Internet access or devices by providing access to remote learning in accordance with guidance issued by the TEA.

* School districts may provide virtual instruction consistent with individual district or school academic plans.

* School instructors may use classrooms for video streaming if they are alone in the classroom and the building occupancy does not exceed 10%.

* All school sponsored events and activities, including but not limited to extracurriculars, fairs, exhibitions, academic and/ or athletic competitions, must not take place in person, on or off campus, until school systems resume on-campus instruction.

* Each school system will develop a written safety and health protocols plan by Friday, August 21, 2020 to include protocols for resuming on-campus instruction and extracurricular activities. School systems must make the plan available to parents and the general public.

Local public health officials will monitor progress and warning indicators to determine whether further delays will be needed to protect the health and safety of students, teachers and school staff.”


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