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Texas Education Agency releases new COVID-19 guidance

Schools are not required to conduct COVID-19 contact tracing, but if officials are made aware of a close contact, officials say the student's parents should be told.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Education Agency (TEA) released new public health guidance for schools and parents on Aug. 5, detailing everything from masks to contact tracing COVID-19 cases. 

In the document, the TEA said schools must notify their local health authority and the Texas Department of State Health services of test-confirmed cases of COVID-19, whether it be any teacher, staff member, student or visitor. 

RELATED: VERIFY: Yes, a school district may require employees to use personal days for COVID-19 quarantine

The guidance says that, in accordance with Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order, schools cannot require students or staff to wear masks. Conversely, schools must allow individuals to wear a mask should they choose to do so. 

Schools must exclude students from attending school in person who are actively sick with COVID-19 or who have received a positive test result for COVID-19, according to TEA's guidance. The TEA also said 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.

Regarding close contacts, the TEA guidance says "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, school systems are not required to conduct COVID-19 contact tracing."

Credit: WFAA

Though schools are not required to conduct COVID-19 contact tracing, if officials are made aware of a close contact, they should notify the student's parents. From there, parents of students determined to be close contacts "may opt to keep their students at home during the recommended stay-at-home period." Previous CDC guidance suggested a 14-day stay-at-home period based on the incubation period of the virus. Updated CDC guidance states the stay-at-home period may end 10 days after the close contact exposure with no COVID-19 symptoms experienced, if no testing is performed, according to the TEA.

During the stay-at-home period, the school system may deliver remote instruction consistent with the practice of remote conferencing outlined in the proposed Student Attendance Accounting Handbook (SAAH) rules.

A survey from Austin ISD showed 80% of parents said they plan to send their child to school with masks. For a closer look at the survey, click here

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