AUSTIN, Texas - Thursday, Austin Independent School District released its health and safety protocols for the 2021-2022 school year.
With COVID-19 variants and increased hospitalizations nearly pushing Austin-Travis County back into Stage 4 of its risk-based guidelines, AISD says it is committed to providing students and staff a healthy and safe environment.
The district says the protocols for the school year reflect the recommendations made in both Austin Public Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics updated guidelines. Virtual options are also being considered, although AISD says more information on that won't be available until August. 2.
"This year the TEA has said we’re not going to continue with that so it kind of puts us a little bit in a bind that we’re not getting that funding for the students to participate in virtual learning," AISD spokesperson Cristina Nguyen said. "We are looking at a couple different options to see how we can make that work."
Some parents are responding to the plans, including Sharyn Vane, who noted that the district is "in a tough spot" due to state restrictions.
"To me a best case scenario would be the district would’ve been planning all summer for a really robust virtual option," Vane said.
"I just hope as we go into the year everyone can think past what their own personal situation is and think about what they can do for the good of the district and of the community," she added.
Masks cannot be required for students, staff, or visitors due to a mandate by Governor Greg Abbott. However, AISD is strongly encouraging everyone, whether vaccinated or not, to wear a mask when indoors and around others who are not in their immediate household. AISD stresses those who are unvaccinated are especially encouraged to wear a mask.
The masking protocol directly follows Austin Public Health's guidelines, which currently recommends masking even for vaccinated individuals.
Screening and Temperature Checks
AISD is strongly encouraging all individuals to screen for symptoms per CDC guidelines before coming to campus. The AISD mobile app has a "COVID-19 Screen & Go" feature which AISD says can be used by both students and staff.
AISD says it will no longer be performing temperature checks or screening upon entrance, as the CDC recommends screening should happen before leaving home.
AISD is stressing that anyone who is sick should stay home and contact their school immediately.
AISD says it will follow the CDC’s recommended cleaning guidelines for schools. Highly touched surfaces and areas will be cleaned frequently.
The district says any reports of sick students, teachers, or visitors will also result in an immediate deep clean of areas of contact.
If a child or a child's parent is feeling sick, regardless of whether they're vaccinated or not, the district is asking those individuals to stay home and contact their doctor and school as soon as possible.
Sick students and staff will be asked to isolate at home for 10 days. Those who are symptomatic can return early if they receive a doctor’s note stating they do not have COVID-19 or receive a negative result from a PCR test.
AISD says rapid antigen testing will still be available in campus health rooms. Testing will not be a requirement.
AISD says unvaccinated students and staff who come into contact with anyone who has a positive case of COVID-19 will be required to quarantine for 10-14 days,
Vaccinated individuals will not need to quarantine even in the event they have direct contact with a positive case.
AISD says to assist with contact tracing classrooms will have assigned seating, with physical distancing of 3 feet when possible. Plexiglass will also be placed in classrooms and across campuses.
The district also adds that it will be providing a HEPA air filtration system within each classroom.
The district says it is partnering with local organizations to provide COVID-19 vaccine opportunities to students, staff, families, and the community. AISD adds that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is not required, but strongly encouraged.
You can find vaccine clinic opportunities HERE.
The district says buses will go back to operating at full capacity with required seating charts, students who live in the same household will sit together. Hand sanitizer will be readily available on buses and daily cleaning will continue.
AISD encourages students to continue to wear masks while on the bus.
AISD says all students will go back to eating breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria unless their school was a Breakfast in the Classroom campus pre-pandemic.
There will be assigned seating, and students will follow social distancing as space permits. Hand washing or using hand sanitizer will be required before going through the food line and eating areas will be cleaned between students.
"Please note that while we do not expect many or any changes to the above protocols, we will continue to adjust protocols and communicate any changes as new governmental mandates and health authority recommendations are given," said AISD.
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