The return to in-person teaching in schools has been marked by the statewide legal battle led by Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, who insist on personal responsibility as opposed to implementing health measures.
Amidst the fight between state and local authorities, the Texas Supreme Court has temporarily allowed schools to implement their own mask mandates, as a safety measure for students and personnel to avoid infections.
However, TEA’s guidelines have been shifting along with the outcomes from the legal battle, which has been confusing both for parents and teachers.
The guidelines’ most recent updates will require public schools to notify parents if there are confirmed COVID-19 cases in their children’s classroom, which will include notifying teachers and staff. But the TEA does not specify the type of information that such notification needs to include.
In some cases, districts have chosen to notify confirmed cases within the same classroom, whereas other districts notify confirmed cases in any area of the school. Either way, the school must notify every reported case to their local health department, which in turn notifies the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Despite the recent clarity on TEA’s guidelines, they have stated that mask requirements will remain uncertain as long as the legal challenges continue their current course.
In the meantime, COVID-19 cases have started to worryingly increase with school reopening, with a small town in West Texas completely shut down and forced to quarantine due to a rapid surge.
Students in Iraan, Texas, were only able to attend school for a week before a covid outbreak forced the school district to enter quarantine for two weeks
“This means that students and staff will quarantine only with immediate family,” said Tracy Canter, superintendent of the Iraan-Sheffield Independent School District, in a letter to the community “They should not be out and about in the community or hanging out with friends. The only way that this will work is if everyone does their part.”
As reported by the Texas Tribune, before the shutdown, 23% of the district’s staff was out either because they had tested positive for COVID-19 or been exposed to it, Canter said. About 27% of the instructional staffers were already out because of coronavirus and about 17% of students were also out because of either exposure or contracting the virus.