McMullen County ISD and Jourdanton ISD will soon open their doors for in-person instruction. MCISD’s first day of the new school year is Wednesday, Aug. 12, followed by JISD on Monday, Aug. 17.
Students at MCISD will start with on-site instruction only. Remote learning will only be available at MCISD should the student be in quarantine, they have an underlying health issue that makes it necessary for them to be away from others or the school building has been shut down.
At JISD, parents were given the option of either face-to-face learning (on campus) or remote/ virtual learning for their child. Face-to-face instruction entails students attending daily, as with the regular school year, while following safety, sanitation and social distancing expectations. Students participating in virtual learning are expected to complete and submit assignments as communicated by the remote/virtual learning teachers. The home-learning model is an extension of the classroom and includes the same high-level expectations for participation and assignments as face-to-face.
Schools are expected to comply with the Governor’s Executive Order for wearing masks or face shields, where this is most developmentally appropriate.
At JISD, students in 4th-12th grade are required to wear masks when riding the bus and during the school day. Masks are optional for students in pre-kinder-3rd grade. There are exceptions, such as during meals or while students are participating in some non-UIL athletic or other extracurricular activities.
All adults are required to wear masks when in the building, classroom or office with others. Exceptions include lunch breaks with appropriate social distancing.
Classroom teachers may use face shields and social distancing when providing direct instruction in the classroom.
Screening for COVID-19
Guidelines released by local schools highlight the precautions that will be taken to help prevent and reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
The guidelines released by MCISD and JISD both state that per CDC guidelines, the initial monitoring of symptoms begins at home. You should stay at home and consult with a medical professional regarding school participation, if you are feeling ill, including symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, abdominal pain, fatigue, muscle aches or headache.
The MCISD plan states that all students and staff will be screened for COVID 19 symptoms regularly and individuals who present with symptoms will be separated and sent home.
At JISD, temperatures will be taken for each student before boarding the bus. If a student’s temperature is at or above 100 degrees, the student will not be allowed on the bus and will be given a medical/ safety informational form with guidelines that must be followed before the student is allowed to return to school.
For JISD students who are dropped off by parents, temperatures will be taken before the student is allowed on the campus. If a student’s temperature is at or above 100 degrees, the student will not be allowed to stay in school and will be given a medical/ safety informational form which must be followed before the student is allowed to return to school. In some instances, a release from a medical professional may be required.
The MCISD and JISD plans list TEA Guidance as follows for students:
“Parents must ensure they do not send a child to school on campus if the child has COVID-19 symptoms or is lab-confirmed with COVID-19, and instead should opt to receive remote instruction until the below conditions for re-entry are met. Parents may also opt to have their students receive remote instruction if their child has had close contact with an individual who is lab-confirmed with COVID-19 until the 14- day incubation period has passed. 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.”
Both plans ask teachers and staff to check themselves at home before coming to work. They must report to the school system themselves if they have COVID-19 symptoms or are lab-confirmed with COVID-19, or if they have had close contact with a person who is lab-confirmed with COVID-19. If so, they must remain off campus until the 14-day incubation period has passed.
Required action if persons with lab-confirmed cases have been in a school
Per the Texas Education Agency, these are the required steps schools should take to address lab-confirmed cases in a school.
1. If an individual who has been in a school is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19, the school must notify its local health department, in accordance with applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations, including confidentiality requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
2. Schools must close off areas that are heavily used by the individual with the lab-confirmed case (student, teacher or staff) until the non-porous surfaces in those areas can be disinfected, unless more than three days have already passed since that person was on campus.
3. 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 lab-confirmed COVID-19 case is identified among students, teachers or staff who participate in any on-campus activities.
TEA Guidance for confirmed or suspected COVID-19
JISD’s back-to-school guidance plan includes TEA guidance for persons confirmed or suspected with COVID-19.
Any individuals who themselves either:
(a) are lab-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 any of the below conditions for campus re-entry have been met:
• In the case of an individual who was diagnosed with COVID-19, the individual may return to school when all three of the following criteria are met: at least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery (resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications); the individual has improvement in symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
• In the case of an individual who has symptoms that could be COVID-19 and who is not evaluated by a medical professional or tested for COVID-19, such individual is assumed to have COVID-19, and the individual may not return to the campus until the individual has completed the same threestep set of criteria listed above.
• If the individual has symptoms that could be COVID-19 and wants to return to school before completing the above stay at home period, the individual must either:
(a) obtain a medical professional’s note clearing the individual for return based on an alternative diagnosis, or
(b) receive two separate confirmations at least 24 hours apart that they are free of COVID via acute infection tests at an approved COVID-19 testing location found at https:// tdem.texas.gov/covid-19/.
Reporting to nurse
At both JISD and MCISD, the school nurse can provide an assessment of a student showing COVID-19 symptoms.
“We are going to use our registered nurse to help us with evaluating and contacting parents to come pick them up if they have symptoms,” said JISD Superintendent Theresa McAllister.
Jourdanton ISD employs one registered nurse and two health aides. These individuals have been trained to support and assist with health and safety matters.
If a JISD student or MCISD student is tested for COVID-19, it would have to be done at an approved testing facility, which both districts are not.
“Standard protocol has always been and will remain, that any sick student is to report to the nurse,” said MCISD Superintendent Jason Jones.
The protocol of parents picking up their child if he or she starts showing symptoms at school and then taking them to their family doctor (or approved testing site) and see what he or she recommends is also the recommendation of Don Penny, Atascosa County Emergency Management Services Director.