1. Is there public health guidance available for the 20-21 school year? (8/13/20)
  2. What about public health guidance to prevent the virus from entering the schools? (8/13/20)
  3. What guidance is available for individuals who are confirmed or suspected with COVID-19? (updated 9/2/20)
  4. What kind of reporting requirements are there for test-confirmed cases of COVID-19? (updated 10/2/20)
  5. Is there guidance on masks/face coverings? (8/13/20)
  6. How about guidance on social distancing and class size? (8/13/20)
  7. What about visitors to schools? (8/13/20)
  8. What about public health guidance for staffing and meetings? (8/13/20)
  9. Is the state doing anything about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for students and staff? (8/13/20)
  10. Is there guidance for UIL sports? (8/13/20)
  11. Is there guidance on training and conditioning activities that are non-UIL activities? (8/13/20)

The answers to questions we've compiled do not constitute legal advice. The situation is changing rapidly, and key factors will differ from school district to school district. This information will be updated as new details emerge, but we encourage TCTA members with specific questions to call our staff attorneys at 888-879-8282. Members with general inquiries can submit them through the Ask-a-Lawyer portal.

For more COVID-19 FAQs about 2020-21, click here.

Health Guidance

Is there public health guidance available for the 20-21 school year?

TEA’s SY 20-21 Public Health Guidance (updated 8/4/20) to help support school systems in planning for the 2020-21 school year includes:

  • school systems should consider stringently applying practices to adults on campuses, even when it might not be feasible to do so for students, to more fully protect adult teachers and staff who are generally at greater risk from COVID-19 than students;
  • there will almost certainly be situations that necessitate temporary school closure due to positive COVID-19 cases in schools. Parents, educators, and school administrators should be prepared for this in the event that it occurs, while actively working to prevent it through prevention and mitigation practices;
  • neither the public health guidance nor any local school systems’ reopening plans are subject to approval by any government entity; and
  • TEA recommends that school systems designate a staff person or group that is responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns and clearly communicate for all school staff and families who this person or group is and how to contact them.

TEA also makes available a Public Health Operations Guidebook that outlines the steps that school systems must take to develop their plans, provides guidelines and a tool for planning with local public health entities, and provides communications resources that school systems and campuses can customize to align to their local plans. The guidebook includes:

  • Resources: scenario planning documents and communications templates to communicate with parents/staff
  • Definitions:
    • Staying home: allows individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19 to monitor symptoms during the period in which they may be infectious. They should separate themselves from others outside their home, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health entity.
    • Self-isolation is different: individuals who are in isolation should stay home until it’s safe for them to be around others.
  • Beginning of the year notification letters to Parents/Guardians and Staff/Educators
  • Notification of failed screening
  • Mobile and web-based software applications to screen staff, students, and visitors for COVID-19 symptoms. Districts may choose to implement these applications to simplify their screening process. 
  • Flow chart for what to do to respond to confirmed Covid-19 cases and negative cases.

What about public health guidance to prevent the virus from entering the schools?

TEA’s SY 20-21 Public Health Guidance (updated 8/4/20) states that school systems must require teachers and staff to self-sc/reen for /COVID-19 symptoms before coming onto campus each day.

In addition, the school systems may consider screening students for COVID-19 as well. Screening is accomplished by asking questions by phone or other electronic methods and/or in person. The screening questions should also be asked of a student’s parent if that parent will be dropping off or picking up their child from inside the school. Regularly performing a forehead temperature check of otherwise asymptomatic students in school is not recommended, but the practice is also not prohibited.

What guidance is available for individuals who are confirmed or suspected with COVID-19?

TEA’s SY 20-21 Public Health Guidance (updated 8/27/20) includes that any individuals who themselves either: (a) are test-confirmed to have COVID-19; or (b) experience the symptoms of COVID-19 (listed below) must stay at home throughout the infection period, and cannot return to campus until the school system screens the individual to determine conditions for campus re-entry have been met.

Schools must close off areas that are heavily used by the individual with the test-confirmed case (student, teacher, or staff) until the non-porous surfaces in those areas can be disinfected, unless more than 7 days have passed since that person was on campus.

What kind of reporting requirements are there for test-confirmed cases of COVID-19?

In its 2020-21 COVID-19 Case Reporting document (updated 8/27/20), 2020-21 COVID-19 Case Reporting FAQ (updated 9/10/2), and DSHS Texas Public Schools Data Display FAQ (updated 10/1/20), TEA outlines data reporting requirements and case data dashboard information to support policymakers, districts, educators and parents making decisions on how to keep school populations healthy. TEA is supporting DSHS in conducting a statewide weekly data collection dashboard of positive COVID-19 cases in schools. Case information should be supplied each week a school system is notified that a student, teacher, staff member, district employee or other person who participates in any on-campus activity is test-confirmed with a current COVID-19 infection and exposed in close contact. On campus means on the campus grounds, on a school bus or in any campus facility.

Each school district can independently determine if it wants to publish a separate dashboard from the DSHS weekly data collection dashboard. Because the information included in a district’s dashboard is not standardized each school district can determine what type of information is collected and shared on its dashboard.

Specifically, school administrators and some other school employees, including teachers and counselors, have a duty to make a report if they suspect that a student or a staff member may have COVID-19. Failing to report may constitute a crime and could potentially lead to an investigation by the State Board for Educator Certification and sanctions against an educator’s credentials. Click here to read more.

The online web form must be submitted weekly beginning Sept. 8. According to TEA’s 2020-21 COVID-19 Case Reporting FAQ (9/2/20), a school district that has already started the 2020-21 school year will need to submit a report for on-campus positive cases at the campus level from the date the school year began. Positive antibody tests, which show an individual has COVID-19 antibodies but is not necessarily currently infected, do not require a case report, TEA said. In addition to the state COVID-19 Public School Case Report form, schools will still have to submit a separate report to their local health entity for purposes of public health actions such as contact tracing.

Separately, TEA announced a PEIMS data collection beginning in October to collect crisis codes at the student level. Together, these two data collections will allow TEA and DSHS to review statewide information on COVID-19 cases in schools to better inform public policy decisions that will continue to be made related to COVID-19.

Per TEA’s SY 20-21 Public Health Guidance (updated 8/27/20), consistent with school notification requirements for other communicable diseases, and consistent with legal confidentiality requirements, schools must notify all teachers, staff, and families of all students in a school if a test-confirmed COVID-19 case is identified among students, teachers or staff who participate in any on-campus activities.

Is there guidance on masks/face coverings?

In its SY 20-21 Public Health Guidance (updated 8/4/20), TEA states that schools are required to comply with the governor’s executive order regarding the wearing of masks. Full-face shields may be used in place of a mask to protect eyes, nose, and mouth whenever a mask is not feasible. In addition to the executive order, school systems may require the use of masks or face shields for adults or students for whom it is developmentally appropriate.

How about guidance on social distancing and class size?

TEA’s SY 20-21 Public Health Guidance (updated 8/4/20) encourages students to practice social distancing where feasible without disrupting the educational experience. The guidance includes that in classroom spaces that allow it, districts should consider placing student desks a minimum of six feet apart when possible. In addition, in classrooms where students are regularly within six feet of one another, schools should plan for more frequent hand washing and/or hand sanitizing and should consider whether increased airflow from the outdoors is possible. When feasible and appropriate (for example, in physical education classes as weather permits), it is preferable for students to gather outside, rather than inside, because of likely reduced risk of virus spread outdoors. Moreover, depending upon local conditions, school systems should consider eliminating assemblies and other activities that bring large groupings of students and/or teachers and staff together.

A district must submit a request for a class size exception for any class in K-4 that exceeds the 22 students class size limit (Texas Education Code §25.112) during the course of the school year. This requirement applies to remote instruction in addition to on-campus instruction. For additional information please see the Maximum Class Size Exceptions section of the State Waivers website.

What about visitors to schools?

In its SY 20-21 Public Health Guidance (updated 8/4/20), TEA states parents and other adults can visit schools, as permitted by local school system policies. Excluding parental drop-off and pick-up, before visitors are allowed onto campuses, school systems must screen all visitors to determine if the visitors have COVID-19 symptoms or are test-confirmed with COVID-19, and, if so, they must remain off campus until they meet certain criteria for re-entry.

During visits, parents and other visitors must follow virus prevention and mitigation requirements of the school.

School systems should restrict visits in schools to only those essential to school operations.

What about public health guidance for staffing and meetings?  

TEA’s SY 20-21 Public Health Guidance (updated 8/4/20) includes that school systems should attempt to reduce in-person staff meetings or other opportunities for adults to congregate in close settings. When those meetings are necessary and cannot be done through electronic means, everyone must follow mask protocols, remain at least 6 feet apart where feasible, consider the use of dividers, and consider whether increased airflow from the outdoors is possible in those settings.

Is the state doing anything about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for students and staff?

Per TEA’s Personal Protective Equipment Update (updated 6/9/20), the agency, in collaboration with the Governor’s Strike Force and the Texas Department of Emergency Management, is distributing PPE to help school systems reopen for the 2020-21 school year. PPE includes:

  • Disposable masks: 53 million for students and staff
  • Reusable masks: 18 million for students and staff
  • Gloves: 12 million sets for staff
  • Thermometers (infrared and no-contact): 42,500 for students and staff
  • Hand Sanitizer: 600,000 gallons for students and staff
  • Face Shields: 1 million for staff

PPE allotments were calculated by using 2019-20 student and on-campus staff counts and were allotted on a per pupil, district basis. On-campus staff includes teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, and auxiliary staff. Districts maintain the discretion and responsibility for distributing the PPE according to their local context.

Click here to download the 2020-21 PPE allotments by district. The list includes the PPE items as well as the product types per PPE.

Is there guidance for UIL sports?

The UIL has postponed the start of the high school fall sports season for Class 6A and 5A football and volleyball teams with practices for the two sports in the organization’s highest classifications will start five weeks later: Sept. 7, rather than Aug. 3. Volleyball teams can start games Sept. 14; football, Sept. 24.

Each sport will still play a full season with football playoffs starting in early December and extend through January 2021, rather than ending before Christmas. The volleyball state tournament is set for Dec. 11-12, rather than just before Thanksgiving.

The UIL will permit schools in Class 4A and below to start on-time for all fall sports: football, volleyball, cross country and team tennis. State championships for the smallest four classifications will remain in the traditional time frame.

Updated UIL Risk Mitigation Guidelines took effect Aug. 1.

Is there guidance on training and conditioning activities that are non-UIL activities?

TEA’s Training and Conditioning Guidance for Non-UIL Activities (updated 6/9/20), provides information on facilities, grouping and staffing, and hygiene/health practices. Per the guidance, workouts and training sessions on campus must be optional for students. In addition to on-campus workout options, schools should consider providing students guidance for working out at home or remotely away from school. This can include virtual workouts and training, emailed or otherwise electronically delivered instructions, or any delivery model approved by the local school district.

For grouping students:

  • Sport Specific Activities Conducted Outdoors: Students may be placed in working groups no larger than 15 total students, through June 21. Beginning June 22, students may be placed in working groups no larger than 25 students total. Each working group should maintain appropriate distance from other working groups.
  • Sport Specific Activities Conducted Indoors: Students may be placed in working groups no larger than 10 total students, through June 21. Beginning June 22, students may be placed in working groups no larger than 15 students total. Each working group should maintain appropriate distance from other working groups.

Indoor workout activities can be conducted up to a maximum of 25% capacity through June 21 and may begin operating at 50% capacity beginning June 22.

Schools should limit the total number of participants based on available space to allow for the appropriate distancing between students and staff.

When actively exercising or playing a wind instrument, students and coaches must maintain at least 10 feet of distance from all sides when possible.