SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District will issue an amended health directive next week that will include recommendations to guide school districts on safe restarting of face-to-face instruction.
The announcement comes the same day that Gov. Greg Abbott and other top GOP state leaders released a statement saying that local health authorities can’t preemptively close schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The statement appears to prevent the implementation of a health directive announced July 17 by Metro Health Medical Director Dr. Junda Woo that would keep Bexar County school campuses closed to in-person learning until Sept. 7.
Local health authorities “do not have the power to issue preemptive, blanket closures of schools weeks or months in advance of when a school may open its doors to students,” but they can close a campus in response to an outbreak, the statement said.
The statement also said that school boards have “the authority to decide how schools will safely open this year.”
The Texas Education Agency has given school districts up to eight weeks after the start of school for a “transition period” when it can conduct classes through remote-learning only. After that, the district is supposed to allow students back on campus.
In a news release, city officials said they disagreed with the analysis of state officials regarding the Texas Health and Safety Code, which local officials said “grants the local health authority powers beyond quarantine, namely powers to institute preventative measures. This is the same state law that gives the Governor the authority to revoke the health directive, which he did not do that in his statement today.”
Knowing that state officials are going to stick to their guns, local officials decided to come up with an amended health directive.
“The goal of an amended health directive is to relieve the confusion and uncertainty for families, teachers and school administrators and to provide recommendations and health indicators for schools to consider as they return to in-person instruction,” the news release said.
Woo will gather input from other health experts and school stakeholders based upon health indicators for the amended health directive.
City officials will gather community feedback during next week’s COVID-19 & Schools Virtual Town Hall, which is scheduled for Wednesday.