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Texas school districts continue to face COVID-19 as they prepare for back to school

No face covering mandate for Copperas Cove ISD students, staff


Cove Leader-Press


Copperas Cove parent Hilda Medina spoke during the Copperas Cove Independent School District’s board of trustee meeting’s Open Forum to share her concerns about school zones and the rising number of COVID-19 cases and the strain on hospitals and how students will be kept safe at school.

She mentioned that McLane Children’s Hospital, in Temple, is at capacity with both RSV and COVID-19 cases.

As students go back to school this month, more and more people are expressing concern over the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus and the impact it is having on hospitals and children.

The board members were unable to respond to Medina’s questions directly due to public meeting rules, but CCISD superintendent Joseph Burns shared that the district is currently working on its protocols for the new school year regarding COVID-19.

“Let me say this, the governor has stopped a lot of things about requirements for districts, and we are compelled to comply with our governor’s executive order,” Burns said. “There are some districts across the state that are not. We are not of the mind, and our legal counsel is on the mind, that we can take action that is directly in opposite direction of what the governor says.”

Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order GA-38 states that no government official or entity can mandate masks or face coverings, except for hospitals, state-sponsored living centers, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Center, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department and any county and municipal jails enacting appropriate policies.

If a county, municipality or school district attempts to impose a mask mandate or a limitation that is considered inconsistent or conflicting with the governor’s order, they can be subject to a fine of up to $1,000.

Austin ISD, Dallas ISD, Houston ISD, Spring ISD and now Fort Worth ISD and San Antonio ISD have stated they will enforce a mask mandate for students, staff and visitors on district property, in spite of the governor’s order.

Dallas County and Bexar County officials filed lawsuits earlier this week against the state’s ban on local mask mandates, state district judges in both counties responded by granting temporary injunctions against the governor’s order. Other counties, like Fort Bend County, have either already filed a similar lawsuit by Wednesday or, like Harris County, are expected to file a suit soon. As a result of the mask mandates, other school districts in Dallas County- not just Dallas ISD but Garland ISD as well- are enforcing masks for students, staff and visitors/parents.

Locally, Copperas Cove ISD will not enforce mask wearing among students or staff.  

Copperas Cove ISD Communications Director Wendy Sledd confirmed that the district will be complying with the governor’s order, but students and staff are welcome to wear masks if they would like to.

During Tuesday’s board meeting, Burns shared his frustration of how clear, or rather not clear, the guidance from the state is for school districts.

“I don't want this to be an excuse, but I will tell you that the guidance we're being offered is about as clear as mud,” Burns said. “There is not good guidance from Texas Department of State Health Services, yet, and there's not good guidance from TEA.”

The Texas Education Agency released its latest guidance on August 5, 2021. The guidance states that if an individual in school is test-confirmed to have COVID-19, schools must notify local health departments, but it does not state that that schools are required to notify parents.

It also states that upon receipt of information that any teacher, staff member, student or visitor at a school is test-confirmed to have COVID-19, the school must submit a report to the Texas Department of State Health Services via an online form, and the report must be submitted each Monday for the prior seven days.

This was the practice last year in reporting COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

TEA guidance also states that schools are not required to conduct COVID-19 contact tracing, “given the data from 2020-21 showing very low COVID-19 transmission rates in a classroom setting and data demonstrating lower transmission rates among children than adults.”

The guidance continues to read that “if school systems are made aware that a student is a close contact, the school system should notify the student’s parents.”

Parents of students who are determined to be close contacts of an individual with COVID-19 may opt to keep their students at home during the recommended stay-at-home period, which is 10 days, if the person is no longer experiencing symptoms or after a negative result from a PCR test.

School systems must also exclude students from attending school in person if they are actively sick with COVID-19 or have received a positive test result for COVID-19.

Parents must ensure they do not send a child to school on campus if the child has COVID-19 symptoms or is test-confirmed with COVID-19, until the conditions for re-entry are met.

During the exclusion period, the school may deliver remote instruction only if the student is unable to attend school because of a temporary medical condition and the total amount of remote conferencing instruction does not exceed more than 20 instructional days over the entirety of the school year.

In addition, the student’s temporary medical condition is documented by a physician, and the documentation must include a statement from the physician that the student is to remain confined to their home or to a hospital; the student has a positive test result for a communicable condition; or the student has been identified as having been in close contact with COVID-19.

CCISD previously utilized a COVID-19 “screener” questionnaire last year, where students and staff answered questions about experiencing any symptoms or exposure related to COVID-19 prior to entering their campus.

The district will no longer require students or staff to fill out the “screener” at this time, Sledd said.

“We will continue with our stringent requirement of regular handwashing and will have sanitizing stations and water bottle filling stations- no water fountains- available throughout all CCISD schools and departments,” Sledd said. “We will continue to monitor cases in Coryell County and take all precautions as are allowed by law.  The vaccine is expected to be available for younger children as early as September, and we will definitely notify parents as soon as it is available.”

The district will not be bringing back the COVID-19 dashboard from last year. The dashboard kept track of the number of active lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases among students and staff at each campus.

Copperas Cove Leader Press

2210 U.S. 190
Copperas Cove, TX 76522
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