Texas Education Agency releases new COVID-19 public health guidelines for school districts

Guidance comes more than a week after legislators sent letter to Gov. Abbott, Commissioner Mike Morath expressing concern

Coronavirus and the Classroom. (KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – The Texas Education Agency released new health guidelines for public schools more than a week after Texas House legislators sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott and TEA Commissioner Mike Morath, urging them to reconsider mask mandates in schools and funding for virtual education due to the uptick in COVID-19 cases statewide.

The new guidelines address on-campus instruction, non-UIL extracurricular sports and activities and any other activities the students must complete, the TEA said.

If an individual tests positive for COVID-19, a school must notify its local health department in accordance with state and federal laws, the TEA said.

After receiving the information that any teacher, staff member, student or visitor at a school has tested positive for COVID-19, the school must also submit a report to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the TEA said.

The TEA said the report must be submitted every Monday for the last seven days.

The new guidelines do not require face masks, per the governor’s emergency order that bans mask mandates.

“Other authority to require protective equipment, including masks, in an employment setting is not necessarily affected by (the emergency order),” according to the TEA. “School systems must allow individuals to wear a mask if they choose to do so.”

Students who have tested positive for COVID-19 must be excluded from attending classes. However, the TEA says schools may offer remote learning to students who are out.

The TEA asks parents to keep their children at home if they have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19.

The agency says schools can have regular COVID-19 testing for staff members and students with a parent’s permission.

School systems will not be required to contact trace since the data from the 2020-2021 school year showed very low COVID-19 transmission rates among children and lower transmission rates among children than adults, according to the TEA.

“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,” the TEA public guidance states.

To read the TEA’s new guidelines, which are effective as of Thursday, see below or click here.

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About the Author:

Ivan Herrera has worked as a journalist in San Antonio since 2016. His work for KSAT 12 and KSAT.com includes breaking news, COVID-19 coverage, personal finance stories on the "Money: It's Personal" series, as well as producing Q&As and content for the "South Texas Pride" series.