Weather Alert

Metro Health issues amended directive for school openings

Classroom/MGNPhoto

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) -San Antonio Metro  Health has issued an amended directive for the reopening of public and private schools.  The guidelines issued Friday urge local school districts to refer to the the public health department’s metrics when gauging the safety of reopening campuses as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“We have brought these recommendations and this guidance as a tool for our school districts to have something to base these extremely important decisions on so that they have the information that they need,” said Dr. Sandra Guerra, assistant director of Metro Health.

The school safety indicator includes three risk levels — red, yellow, and green.  San Antonio currently is in the “red zone” where schools are advised not to offer in-person sessions. However, the directive states that they can provide in-person instruction for special needs students, at-risk students and those who don’t have access to the internet, as long as there is no prolonged contact.

In the yellow zone, or moderate risk level, in-person instruction can be offered to those students previously mentioned. The directive from Metro Health also recommends that in the yellow zone, schools limit in-person instruction to six students or less per classroom.

In the green zone, which is low risk, schools can offer in-person instruction to all students, but COVID-19 prevention guidelines, such as social distancing, hand washing and face coverings are required.

“The local public health authority can’t order a school to be closed, but we are working with our school districts to make sure that they’re operating in a safe way,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

Nirenberg said there are reporting requirements that must be followed. School districts must report on a weekly basis to Metro Health the number of students and teachers who have tested positive for COVID-19. They also must report the percentage of staff and students absent during the last 14 days because of coronavirus-type symptoms.

The Texas Education Agency currently is allowing schools to offer up to eight weeks of virtual instruction only.

BEXAR County Health Authority Amended Health Directive
Dated August 7, 2020

Recognizing that open and safe schools are vital to community health, and that COVID-19 presents an ongoing public health threat, the Local Health Authority for Bexar County and the City of San Antonio issues this Directive pursuant to the Texas Health & Safety Code §81.082 imposing requirements on all public and private schools (“School Systems”) offering instruction to students in any grades from pre-kindergarten through grade 12, effective immediately:
Recommendations Based on Health Indicators.

School systems should tie their pandemic operational level to public health department metrics for community infection. Bexar County’s
weekly metric for school re-opening is here and uses Red, Yellow and Green Zones.

At risk levels in the Red Zone.

In-person instruction is not recommended. Ancillary services that do not involve prolonged close contact (within 6 feet, for 15 minutes or more)
should be provided one-on-one to special needs students, at-risk students and students who lack access to resources.
o Other than drive-through events, no school-sponsored events including, but not limited to, fairs, exhibitions, academic and/or athletic        competitions should take place in person, on or off campus.

Athletes may engage in skill-building drills or conditioning at home, alone or with household members, under Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) guidance for youth sports here.
o Staff and students should use a fresh mask each day. Additionally, staff should wear eye protection when working indoors and within 6 feet of students who are unable to wear masks.
o In the event of Stay Home, Work Safe or similar orders, ancillary services will cease for the duration of the orders.

At risk levels in the Yellow Zone.

In-person instruction, if offered, prioritizes special needs students, at-risk students and students who lack access to resources. Instruction
should take place under guidance from the CDC for substantial, controlled community transmission. Fixed cohorts of 6 or fewer students per classroom are recommended in the Yellow zone. Building occupancy and room occupancy should be contingent on adequate ventilation and ability to create 6-foot distancing, and neither building nor room occupancy
should exceed 25%. Reasonable accommodation must be made for qualified staff as required by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
o Other than drive-through events, no school-sponsored events including, but not limited to, fairs, exhibitions, academic and/or athletic competitions should take place in person, on or off campus.
o Athletic teams may conduct no-contact, socially distanced practices in small, fixed cohorts of 6 or fewer students, following CDC guidance for youth sports here.

o Staff and students should use a fresh mask each day. Additionally, staff should wear eye protection when working indoors and within 6 feet of students who are unable to wear masks.

At risk levels in the Green Zone.

In-person instruction should take place under CDC guidance for minimal to moderate community transmission. Social distancing by older
children and adults, frequent hand hygiene, and face coverings during high-contact activities are recommended in the Green zone. Additional guidance is here. Considerations for youth sports can be found here.
Back-to-school indicator bar:

https://covid19.sanantonio.gov/What-YOU-Can-Do/Reopening-Safely/Information-for- Residents#RemoteLearning

CDC guidance for different levels of community transmission:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/guidance-for-
schools.html

CDC considerations for youth sports:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/youth-
sports.html.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/youth-sports-
faq.html

At all risk levels. Staff and students should stay home when sick, and sick individuals should face no negative consequences for staying home. Symptomatic people should be referred for testing, including at free testing sites listed at covid19.sanantonio.gov.
School systems that reduce risk by the all methods below are better candidates for in-person activities and cohort sizes of up to 10 in the Yellow Zone. School systems that are unable to employ
all of these methods should consider extending virtual learning or using smaller cohorts even in
the Green Zone:
 Maximal use of outdoor spaces
 Adhering to American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
(ASHRAE) guidance for school ventilation
 Monitoring social distancing, including in staff break areas
 Providing one 1 fresh mask per person per day
 Prohibiting shared food or utensils among people from different households
 Promoting frequent hand hygiene and ensuring adequate access to hand sanitizer, soap and
sinks
 Working with families to create transportation options that reduce risk
District/System Panel. Each district or School System should create a 7-person COVID-19 panel
that at a minimum includes: 1 student, 1 teacher, 1 parent, 1 non-instructional staffer (i.e.,
maintenance, custodial, food service), 1 school nurse, pediatrician or adolescent healthcare
provider, and 1 human resources representative. The panel will provide guidance to superintendents, principals and school boards on operating procedures. The school nurse or pediatric/adolescent healthcare provider should serve as a liaison to Metro Health, including for notification of positive cases.
Schools may optionally convene their own 7-member panels for additional guidance.
Reporting Requirements. Districts and School Systems shall report to Metro Health weekly:
1) new number and cumulative number of COVID-19 positive staff and students;

2) percentage of staff and students absent or sent home within the last 14 days due to COVID-
like illness;

3) new number and cumulative number of staff and students with influenza-like illness; and
4) percentage of staff and students absent or sent home within the last 14 days due to
influenza-like illness.
District and private school administrative offices, including charter schools, shall post weekly on
their websites:
1) cumulative numbers of COVID-19 positive staff;
2) cumulative numbers of COVID-19 positive students;
3) percentage of staff absent within the last 14 days due to COVID-like illness; and
4) percentage of students absent within the last 14 days due to COVID-like illness or
symptoms.
Written Plan for Protocols. With guidance from their COVID-19 panel, and by no later than
Friday, August 21, 2020, each School System shall develop a written plan with safety and health
protocols for resuming on-campus instruction and extracurricular activities. School systems must
make the plan available to parents and the general public including posting it on their websites.
The School System’s plan to mitigate COVID-19 spread in their schools based on the requirements and recommendations outlined in the School Year 21 Public Health Planning Guidance issued by the Texas Education Agency meets this requirement. The written plan is not subject to approval
by the Bexar County Health Authority.
Our knowledge base about COVID-19 transmission in schools is evolving quickly, and recommendations are likely to change as new data become available. I believe this directive includes appropriate control measures based on current knowledge, including the risk for rapid spread of COVID-19 in congregate settings such as schools, and potential effects on adults in
households with school-age children.

 


Connect With Us Listen To Us On