Health directive requires schools to delay in-person instruction until after Labor Day

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – San Antonio Metro Health has issued a health directive requiring schools to remain closed until after Labor Day.  The edict, which applies to all local public and private schools, warns that the start of on-campus instruction and activity may be delayed further, based on monitoring and assessment of public health mitigation conditions.

“We recognize the importance of reopening schools,” said San Antonio Metro Health Medical Director Dr. Junda Woo. “This directive considers the higher risk for spread of COVID-19 in schools due to their confined spaces, and the challenge for children in following social distancing and hygiene guidelines. Reopening will happen in phases, based on COVID-19 metrics.”

Earlier Friday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a guidance letter to religious private schools stating that they are free to reopen any time they want. Paxton’s letter says local public health orders attempting to restrict their reopenings violate the United States and Texas Constitutions and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg was asked about the AG’s letter at the Friday evening COVID-19 briefing.

“Well, we’re fortunate here in San Antonio that we’ve had a faith community that has been proactive about COVID-19 and has really followed the guidance, whether or not required to,” said Nirenberg. “It’s starting to feel like if our interest is in saving lives, we should do our best to ignore our attorney general, in general.”

Jordan McMorrough, director of communications for the Archdiocese of San Antonio said Friday that the scheduled start date for Catholic Schools in the archdiocese is August 17.  They’ll continue to assess the on- or off-campus situation as it gets closer to that time, and are prepared for both scenarios. He said they’re also please with the guidance issued by the State Attorney General.
The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops also thanked Paxton “for the guidance issued today that clarifies that ‘religious private schools may continue to determine when it is safe for their communities to resume in-person instruction free from any government mandate or interference.”
Marti West,  superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, said they’re in contact almost daily with state and local authorities and remain committed to taking whatever steps are necessary in order to ensure safe re-entry to campuses.
“We believe that Catholic schools, due to our smaller size, are able to adhere to safety protocols and social distancing measures recommended by the CDC to create a very safe environment for students, faculty and staff,” said West. “Understanding that this health crisis will definitely impact schools for the 2020-2021 school year, we have already planned for operating in both on- and off-campus learning environments with flexibility and options.”

The local directive issued by Dr. Woo states that a school may accommodate families without Internet access or devices by providing access to remote learning in accordance with guidance issued by  TEA.    School instructors may use classrooms for video streaming if they are alone in the classroom and the building occupancy does not exceed 10%.

All school-sponsored events and activities, including fairs, exhibitions, academic, and athletic competitions, must not take place in person, on or off campus, until school systems resume on-campus instruction.  Local public health officials will monitor progress and warning indicators to determine whether further delays will be needed to protect the health and safety of students, teachers and school staff.

Dr. Woo issued the directive based on recommendations from a task force of individuals s selected with the support of the COVID-19 Community Response Coalition. Its members are listed below:

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