SAN ANTONIO – Most Bexar County schools are beginning the school year with remote learning, but questions remain about how districts and school systems will report positive student or staff member COVID-19 cases when in-person instruction returns, which could be as soon as Sept. 8.
Earlier this month, San Antonio Metro Heath updated its directive that issued guidance on how public, private and other school systems should report any positive COVID-19 cases.
The directive stated school districts are required to report to Metro Health weekly the number of COVID-19 positive students and teachers, the percentage of staff and students absent or sent home in the last 14 days due to COVID-like illness and the number of students with influenza-like illness.
The directive added that “district and private school administrative offices, including charter schools, shall post weekly on their websites.”
KSAT contacted the three largest districts in San Antonio — North East ISD, Northside ISD and San Antonio ISD — to check how they will report cases on their individual websites and there was not a consensus despite the directive from the health department.
NEISD spokesperson Aubrey Chancellor said in a statement the district was not planning to post that information on its website at this time.
“Any time we have a positive case at a school, we report it to Metro Health and we send out a letter to that school. Parents will know how many cases are at their school because they will receive a letter every time there is a positive case,” Chancellor said.
NISD spokesperson Barry Perez said the district was still seeking clarification from Metro Health on guidance related to posting positive cases on the district’s website.
He added that the process of notifying a parent or guardian of a positive test was still being finalized, but the plan as of Wednesday was to provide written notification.
SAISD spokesperson Leslie Price said in a statement the district is seeking some guidance from Metro Heath as well on this topic.
“We do not currently have a mechanism to gather all of that data. Additionally, there is also a concern about not only collecting data on who all had COVID-like symptoms, but also how this data would be interpreted by others, as the symptoms mimic so many other conditions,” Price said.
Price said if a student or staff member tests positive the district will follow the Texas Education Agency protocol for lab-confirmed cases in a school and notify all parents and staff at the school while adhering to legal confidentiality requirements.
The district will also notify Metro Health and “the school or building will close off areas that are heavily used by the individual with the lab-confirmed case until the non-porous surfaces in those areas can be disinfected, unless more than 3 days have already passed since that person was on campus,” Price said.
During Tuesday night’s COVID-19 briefing, Metro Health Director Dr. Colleen Bridger was asked by San Antonio Report’s Emily Donaldson how the department would enforce schools posting COVID-19 positives on their websites.
“The same way that we will enforce any other health order issued by the health authority,” said Bridger. “There’s a process outlined that involves us going through the court. We don’t want to get to that point. We think that we can just have conversations with folks and help them understand what we need and why we need it. But if we have to, we do have the authority under state law to go through the court system for enforcement.”
KSAT reached out to Metro Health on Wednesday morning for a response to the major school district’s seeking guidance on posting positive COVID-19 cases on their websites. Dr. Bridger released the following statement:
“The amended Health Directive requires all public, charter, and private schools to report COVID-19 data to Metro Health and school districts to post aggregate data on their website when in-person learning begins. The Health Directive did not define the way the data must be presented on the district’s website. That decision should be at the district-level but can certainly be done at the individual school level.”