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LIST: Central Texas school districts update COVID-19 protocols ahead of spring semester

Austin ISD said it is "prepared for omicron" ahead of its Jan. 5 return-to-class date.

AUSTIN, Texas — In a message released to Austin ISD families and staff on Wednesday, Austin ISD said it is "prepared for omicron" ahead of its Jan. 5 return-to-class date.

In its letter, the district is urging readers to prevent the spread of the virus by getting boosted this week, getting tested at one if its 11 hubs starting on Jan. 3, and by double-layering masks that "fit well" when in-person classes resume next week.

"What we’ve been doing works," the message states. "Austin has just entered Stage 4, which is not as bad as when we went back to school after Winter Break last year, when we were at Stage 5, and when we went back to school last August, when we were also at Stage 5."

The district said AISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde met with Dr. Desmar Walkes, City of Austin Medical Director, on Monday, stating that she "agrees with the CDC that schools need to stay open for in-class instruction."

“Our layered protocols work! We have been here before. We can do this. Our kids need the schools to stay open,” said Dr. Elizalde.

To read the full update from the district, click here. The district has also published answers to frequently asked questions regarding omicron here.

On Jan. 13, the AISD Visual and Performing Arts Department updated its own COVID-19 protocols. 

According to the letter, all students, staff and audience members are required to wear masks at indoor performances, with student performers wearing masks even while performing. Campuses will also reduce the capacity at events based on venue size and anticipated audience to ensure proper social distancing. 

Students will have a verbal health screening for COVID-19 symptoms on a daily basis in order to participate in a rehearsal or performance. Anyone who has symptoms should not attend any school event, the letter stated.

KVUE has reached out to other districts in regard to the spring semester. This story will be updated as responses are received.

Del Valle ISD

Del Valle ISD updated its COVID-19 protocols on Jan. 2, 2022. They include:

  • Masks are required for all students, staff and visitors to DVISD buildings, according to the school board’s resolution that remains in place.
  • Any staff or students who are ill should not come to school and follow absence procedures.
  • Staff and students who receive a positive COVID-19 test should email information to covid19@dvisd.net.
  • Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate for five days.
  • Return to school is permitted on day six if the individual is asymptomatic or symptoms have resolved with no fever.
  • If symptoms have not resolved or the individual has a fever, isolation should continue until symptoms have resolved.
  • Additional guidelines and information is available at www.dvisd.net/covid19

Dripping Springs ISD

Dripping Springs ISD will be mask-optional during the 2021-22 school year. The district said it has upgraded the MERV ratings of filters used on campuses and buses to improve air quality and filtration.

The district said it will not conduct contact tracing, but will notify parents of students who were in close contact with individuals who have COVID-19.

The school district's complete COVID-19 guidance, updated on Jan. 3, is available on its website.

Eanes ISD

The district is not changing COVID-19 protocols at this time but said it is likely to adjust to the new CDC recommendations on quarantining upon further discussion.

The district is not currently offering virtual instruction and masks are optional at this time.

Classes resumed on Tuesday, Jan. 4

Elgin ISD

Masks are required for all students, employees and visitors.

Georgetown ISD

In a letter to family and staff on Dec. 30, 2021, GISD said its guidelines for quarantines have not changed. Those who have tested positive can return to school when they have met all of the following requirements:

  • They are one day (24 hours) fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medication; and 
  • Improved symptoms (cough, difficulty breathing, etc.); and
  • 10 days have passed since symptoms began.

Students or staff who have tested positive and are asymptomatic for COVID-19 will be permitted to return to school or work 10 days from the positive test date, GISD said.

GISD will be returning to fully face-to-face learning for all students on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022. Masks are optional but encouraged.

Hays CISD

Hays CISD students returned to class on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. In a note to the Hays CISD community, the district said it is doing the following:

  • During the break, the district began installing special air purifiers in every classroom and other strategic places at campuses. The installation will continue during the next several weeks until all campuses are completely covered. The air purifiers will not only aid in neutralizing viruses like the coronavirus and the flu, but they are also designed to help reduce other airborne contaminants, including pollen that causes allergies.
  • Because of the sharp rise in case counts with the omicron variant, the district has suspended plans to relax visitor restrictions on campuses during the school day and other safety protocols it had hoped to modify in January.
  • The district will continue with the strictest COVID-19 safety protocols allowed by state law and the Texas Education Agency, including regular and vigorous building cleaning and sanitization, strongly encouraging mask wearing and recommending vaccines and booster shots for those who are eligible.
  • The district also continues to monitor cases and maintains a daily case count dashboard so parents have the information they need to make decisions for themselves and their families.

The district currently uses a 10% positive case count per school-week threshold to recommend students in whole classrooms or campuses quarantine. 

"We are treating campus absences for quarantine as regular illness absences for students and not requiring them to login to remote conferencing for any type of synchronous learning this semester," the district said. "They would be able to make up their assignments through their teachers either online or with paper assignment packets (depending on grade-level and teacher)."

The district lists classrooms or campuses recommended to be in quarantine on its COVID-19 dashboard.

"The Texas Education Agency doesn’t give us the authority to move entire campuses or classrooms to remote or virtual learning," the district said. "Our understanding of the guidance is that we must keep a campus open for parents who want to, or need to, send their children to school. In a severe situation, either through something that would greatly exceed our quarantine recommendation threshold, or because of a severe staff shortage, would could possibly close a campus, but we would then have to make up the time at a later date in the school year."

Hutto ISD

Hutto ISD said it is anticipating delays to bus service for the week of Jan. 2, 2022, due to COVID-19 cases within its Transportation Department. No routes will be canceled.

In an update on Jan. 1, 2022, Hutto ISD said it is following these safety protocols:

  • Isolation/quarantine period - While the CDC has reduced the recommended isolation and quarantine period for some patients in recent days, Hutto ISD will continue to utilize the current safety plan which requires individuals who have received a positive COVID-19 test result to stay home until 10 days have passed since a positive test.
  • Visitors to campus - Due to the high infection rate in the county, the district will restrict visitors to campuses until after Tuesday, Jan. 18.
  • Classroom/workspace closures - Hutto ISD will no longer close a classroom or office/work location for COVID-19 positive cases unless adequate staff is not available to operate safely.

Hutto ISD is no longer requiring masks. The school district said it decided to rescind its mask mandate after consulting legal counsel about a Texas Supreme Court ruling in Bexar County, according to an announcement on its website.

Hutto ISD still “strongly urges all staff and students to wear a mask” indoors or when social distancing can’t be maintained.

Lake Travis ISD

The district is not planning any changes to in-person learning. All students were expected to be back in school on Tuesday, Jan. 4.

Beginning Jan. 12, the district will no longer allow visitors on campus except for volunteers and parents who have scheduled meetings. The district is not requiring masks, but they are strongly recommended while inside.

Leander ISD

Students returned to schools on Jan. 4, 2022. The district said it is still operating under protocols from the Texas Health and Human Services Department and has not shortened its quarantine periods from 10 days.

The district remains in its "yellow phase," which means that masks are recommended for everyone while indoors, the water fountain can be used as per usual and there are no limitations on the number of spectators at extracurricular events.

Leander ISD is encouraging: 

  • wearing double-layered masks when inside and social distancing is not possible; 
  • getting vaccinations and boosters for anyone who qualifies (free vaccination clinics for Williamson County and Travis County);
  • staying home if you are feeling sick or symptomatic;
  • moving large gatherings to outdoor settings, when possible; 
  • testing if you feel sick and following isolation guidelines if you are COVID-19 positive; and 
  • maintaining hygiene protocols like washing your hands, using sanitizer and avoiding touching your face. 

LISD schools will continue to use the CDC-recommended ventilation and air filtration systems in place where possible, in alignment with what it has been doing since it reopened buildings in September 2020. It will continue to partner with community health partners to offer vaccine clinics as their availability allows.

Due to state law regarding emergency funding, the district said remote learning is not an option for them at this time.

Lockhart ISD

When the positivity rate of Caldwell County rises above 25%, LISD will require the use of masks or face coverings while inside LISD buildings and buses. Beginning Jan. 5, this policy will go into effect due to a 32.38% positivity rate.

Manor ISD

Manor ISD said it will continue with in-person learning, with students back in classes starting Jan. 5, 2022. Due to state guidelines, virtual learning is not offered.

Round Rock ISD

The district currently has a mask mandate in place. All protocols are posted on its website.

"We had planned to relax some of our protocols in late January but, given current conditions, will reassess when we return from winter break," a spokesperson said.

Classes resume on Wednesday, Jan. 5.

A spokesperson for the district released the following statement on Jan. 4:

"Schools continue to play a vital role in our community as they provide students with the academic and emotional support they need to excel at every level. They also provide students with consistent access to resources they may not have in the home setting. While we are excited to welcome all of our students back on campus for the Spring semester tomorrow, we will continue to keep vigilant in following our risk-based response protocols that guide our decisions regarding classroom and campus closures. In the event of a closure due to COVID-19, the impacted students and educators would temporarily transition to virtual learning. Otherwise, teaching and learning will continue on campus and in the classroom, where it’s most effective and beneficial for the vast majority of students."

San Marcos ISD

In a letter to families on Jan. 2, 2022, San Marcos ISD said it will continue to enforce its mask/face covering mandate at all district offices, facilities, campuses and school buses. Testing will be provided on a weekly basis for all students and staff who wish to get tested.

SMCISD will adjust to a five-day incubation period for positive people who are asymptomatic. If positive with symptoms, the Human Resources Department and campus nurse will guide and set return dates. Quarantining based on exposure will be determined by vaccination status, symptoms and TEA/CDC guidance.  

All students were to return to schools on Tuesday, Jan. 4.

Smithville ISD

On Jan. 5, the district announced it would again be closing its campuses to most visitors. Click here for more information.

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