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Texas teachers association says schools shouldn’t open until COVID-19 starts to subside

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – Saying “millions of lives are at stake,” the Texas State Teachers Association is asking Gov. Greg Abbott not to reopen schools until the COVID-19 pandemic starts to subside.

“Everyone wants to see schools reopen, but they must reopen safely,” said Noel Candelario, president of  the Texas State Teachers Association. “The governor reopened restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses too soon and the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations soared. We can’t afford to let that happen in our schools.”

TSTA also is calling for strict safety standards, including a requirement that all students, employees and visitors wear masks.   The Association also wants the governor to clarify the mask requirement, which excludes children under the age of 10.

“Teachers must be given the authority to decide whether children younger than 10 in their classes must wear masks,” said Candelario.  “Millions of lives are at stake, beginning with our children, our educators, their families and communities.”

TSTA also says teachers and students who fear that their health would be jeopardized by returning to campus must be allowed to teach and learn remotely, and they should  be provided with the resources they need.

 

TSTA’s standards for safe students, schools and communities: 

Planning and timing
• No hurried return based on artificial start date or any consideration other than safety
• District establishes and continues communication with local and state authorities to determine
current mitigation levels in the community
• Plan developed with full participation of employee, parent and community groups
• Return does not begin until full plan is complete and agreed to by stakeholders

Testing, monitoring, and contact tracing

• Local testing capacity adequate to sustain a robust testing and contact tracing regimen in schools
and community (e.g. to assign Phase 1, 2, or 3 status as defined by CDC)
• District has developed technical and trained personnel capacity to participate in testing and contact
tracing system
• Sufficient nurses or trained health professionals on every campus to monitor temperatures, and
screen for symptoms, in all entering or leaving campus and to respond to sickness or symptoms in
students or staff
• Sufficient thermometers and related equipment for routine temperature checks of students, staff,
and visitors
• Commitment to send home anyone displaying fever or other symptoms
• Sufficient security personnel to enforce limited access to campuses and worksites
• Implementation of screenings safely, respectfully, as well as in accordance with any applicable
privacy laws or regulations
• Confidentiality is maintained

Social distancing

• Enhanced social distancing measures in place for students and staff
• Protection and support for staff and students who are at higher risk for severe illness, such as
providing options for telework and virtual learning
• Provision for teachers and staff from higher transmission areas to telework and other options as
feasible
• Class-size limits that permit enhanced social distancing, and provision of sufficient staff to make
those limits possible, no increase in class-sizes or student/staff ratios
• Ensure that student and staff groupings are as static as possible by having the same group of
students stay with the same staff (all day for young children, and as much as possible for older
students)
• Restrict mixing between groups
• Limit gatherings, events, and extracurricular activities to those that can maintain social distancing,
support proper hand hygiene, and restrict attendance of those from higher transmission areas
• Limit sharing
ØEach child’s belongings separated from others’ and in individually labeled containers, cubbies, or
areas
ØAdequate supplies to minimize sharing of high touch materials to the extent possible (art
supplies, equipment etc. assigned to a single student) or limit use of supplies and equipment by
one group of children at a time and clean and disinfect between use
ØAvoid sharing electronic devices, toys, books, and other games or learning aids
• Spacing of seating/desks to six feet apart, at minimum
• Enforcement of social distancing during entry, exit, and passing times with planning of one-way
traffic flow and adequate staffing to maintain distancing
• Close communal use spaces such as dining halls and playgrounds if possible; otherwise stagger use
and disinfecting in between uses
• If a cafeteria or group dining room is typically used, service of meals in classrooms instead
• Service of individually plated meals and holding of activities in separate classroom
• Staggering of arrival and drop-off times or locations, or putting in place other protocols to limit
direct contact with parents as much as possible
• Provisions to limit the exposure of staff who currently have multi-campus responsibilities and
contact with significantly more student and staff groups than other staff
• Creation of social distance between children on school buses where possible through increased
staff and capacity, and staggering of pickup and drop-off times, rescheduling and/or redesign of
routes, etc.
• Provision of adequate bus monitoring staff to enforce social distancing on buses
• Restriction of nonessential visitors, volunteers and activities involving other groups at the same
time, with structured and scheduled access by stakeholders and partners in monitoring these
standards considered to be “essential”

Cleaning and disinfecting

• Early and repeated training in, and reinforcement of, hand washing and covering coughs and
sneezes among students and staff
• Adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene behaviors, including soap, hand sanitizer with at
least 60 percent alcohol (for staff and older children who can safely use hand sanitizer), tissues, and
no-touch trash cans
• Close, easy access to hygiene supplies and facilities for staff
• Built in time for hand washing and other healthy hygiene behaviors for both students and staff
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces within the school and on school buses at least
daily (for example, playground equipment, door handles, sink handles, drinking fountains, copiers,
handrails, etc.) and shared objects (for example, toys, games, art supplies) between uses
• To clean and disinfect school buses see CDC guidance for bus transit operators
• Ensure safe and correct application of disinfectants and keep products away from children

PPE, supplies, and equipment
• Everyone entering a campus or other school workplace — including students — shall be required
to wear a face mask. Districts can make exceptions for mealtimes and special circumstances.
• District supplied availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including, but not limited to,
cloth face masks, gloves, clear face shields, for all staff and for students where appropriate
• Training, reinforcement, and provision of supplies for use, removal, and washing, of cloth face
coverings for all staff
• Adequate supplies at each campus and worksite of specialized PPE necessary for safe handling of,
and response to, the detection or presence of infection
• Adequate supplies at each campus and worksite of specialized PPE necessary to support and assist
students with special needs

Schools and worksites

• Reconfigure classrooms, common areas, workspaces, and traffic-flow areas for optimum social
distancing
• Ensure that all classrooms (including “portable” structures) and worksites are equipped with
sanitary facilities
• Inspect and ensure ventilation systems operate properly
• Increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using
fans, or other methods. Do not open windows and doors if they pose a safety or health risk (e.g.,
allowing pollens in or exacerbating asthma symptoms) to children using the facility
• Inspect and ensure that all water systems and features (for example, drinking fountains, decorative
fountains) are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’
disease and other diseases associated with water

Behavior and Compliance

• Compliance and implementation of these standards and activities to be closely monitored and
enforced by authority at district level, and not left to the discretion or independent choices of
building or worksite level managers
• Sufficient administrative/leadership staff onsite to monitor and direct compliance with these
standards
• Designation of a staff person at both the district level and at each worksite to be responsible for
listening and responding to COVID-19 concerns from students, families, and employees, with
information provided on who this person is and how to contact them
• Review and adjustment of all district policies, procedures, and directives that might create an
incentive for attendance at work or school by employees or students who are, or may be, infected
with COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus, including attendance, sick leave, evaluation, etc.
policies and procedures
• Strict adherence by the district and all site level administrators and supervisors to leave policies
created in federal law in response to this crisis, with training for staff in their rights under these
laws and support in accessing them without fear of retaliation or negative consequences
• Training for all teachers and staff in these standards and the included safety actions
• Where possible such training conducted virtually or, if in-person, with social distancing maintained
• Above training made available, where possible, to families and community organizations as
partners
• Posted signs on how to stop the spread of COVID-19, properly wash hands, promote everyday
protective measures, and properly wear a face covering

Rapid response

• Plan in place for when a staff member, child, or visitor becomes sick
• Identified isolation room or area to separate anyone who exhibits COVID-like symptoms
• School nurses and other health care providers trained to use Standard and Transmission-Based
Precautions when caring for sick people
• Established procedures for safely transporting anyone sick home or to a healthcare facility
• Procedure to notify local health officials, staff, and families immediately of a possible case while
maintaining confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
• Plan to close off areas used by a sick person and do not use before cleaning and disinfection
• Standard procedure to wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting, or if not possible to wait 24
hours, wait as long as possible

Stakeholder partnerships

• Ongoing, authoritative participation of employee and parent organizations in monitoring safety,
preparedness, and compliance with these standards on a campus-by-campus and worksite-byworksite basis
Psychological and emotional safety
• Sufficiently increased staffing by counselors and other mental and emotional health personnel to
meet the needs of both students and staff who have experienced or are experiencing trauma and/
or anxiety, etc., as a result of this crisis
• Suspension of academic instructional activity for at least the first two weeks of the school term
after students return with a concentration on emotional and social health and resocialization
• Suspension of high stakes testing and assessment — state and district — for this coming school
year, with aggressive pursuit by the district of any necessary waivers
• Targeted assistance for students with special needs or who experience social or economic inequity
exacerbated by the pandemic, with adequate, increased, dedicated staffing and resources to meet
their needs

 


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