What happens when a teacher gets COVID-19 during the school year?

The TEA has a protocol for campuses to follow

File Photo (Bill Graham/The Meridian Star via AP) (Bill Graham)

SAN ANTONIO – With the new school year just weeks away for San Antonio school districts, many parents, students and teachers still have questions about how new protocols will work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the many questions being asked is “What will happen if a teacher gets COVID-19 during the school year?”

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All public schools must follow the Texas Education Agency’s public health guidance.

That guidance says teachers and staff should self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms each day before reporting to campus, including:

  • Feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Shaking or exaggerated shivering
  • Significant muscle pain or ache
  • Diarrhea

If a teacher is confirmed to have COVID-19, the school system is required to contact Metro Health and close off areas that have been heavily used by the employee until the non-porous surfaces can be disinfected, unless it’s been more than three days since the employee was on campus.

The school district is also required to notify teachers, staff and families of all students in the school that someone on campus tested positive. But because of legal confidentiality requirements, schools will not publicly identify the person by name.

If there is a confirmed COVID-19 case on campus, schools may go to remote-only instruction for up to five consecutive days, according to TEA guidance. It’s a scenario the TEA expects will happen.

“There will almost certainly be situations that necessitate temporary school closure due to positive COVID-19 cases in schools,” the guidance states but the agency urges prevention and mitigation practices to limit such closures.

One of the concerns for many school employees is that they may not have enough paid leave to cover the length of a COVID-19 illness.

Teachers in Texas get five days as required by the state plus leave from their district. For most teachers, that adds up to 10 days of paid leave. Some people may need a longer time to recover.

The TEA addressed that concern in the latest health guidance.

“Employees of school systems, like employees of any organization, must continue to meet the work expectations set by their employers, subject to any applicable employment contract terms or legal requirements. However, school systems should work with teachers and other staff to ensure the safety of students, teachers, and staff. This could include allowing those 8 staff, including teachers, who may fulfill their work duties remotely to do so. It could include modification of schedules to ensure, where feasible, that staff members, including teachers, interact with smaller and/or more consistent cohorts of individuals to further mitigate risk. In addition, teachers and staff who are in high risk categories may be entitled to paid leave under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) in addition to leave already accrued.”

Read more about the leave options available here.

An employee may return to school when the following three criteria have been met:

  • At least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery (resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications)
  • The individual has improvement in symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath)
  • At least ten days have passed since symptoms first appeared

How long is someone with COVID-19 contagious?

KSAT also reached out to local school districts to see what additional plans they may have in place when it comes to employees with COVID-19. Many districts pointed to the TEA guidelines, while a few have created district-specific protocols.

Alamo Heights ISD created a process map for employees to follow in the event of illness or exposure to COVID-19. The map details what to do if an employee gets sick, tests positive without symptoms, or has been exposed to someone with the illness.

Boerne and Edgewood ISDs also have detailed instructions on their websites.

Read more on KSAT.com:

About the Author

Julie Moreno has worked in local television news for more than 25 years. She came to KSAT as a news producer in 2000. After producing thousands of newscasts, she transitioned to the digital team in 2015. She writes on a wide variety of topics from breaking news to trending stories and manages KSAT’s daily digital content strategy.

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