Get tested and boosted: How districts are preparing to return to class amid COVID-19 surge

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As winter break comes to an end and classes resume Jan. 5, the Austin Independent School District is encouraging staff members and students to get vaccinated, boosted and tested before returning to campus.

A letter to the district community outlined things AISD officials want staff and families to do before and after classes are back in session. They aren’t mandates, only suggestions, but AISD is confident the precautions it’s been supporting are working like they’re supposed to.

“What we’ve been doing works,” the letter said. “Austin has just entered Stage 4, which is not as bad as when we went back to school after Winter Break last year, when we were at Stage 5, and when we went back to school last August, when we were also at Stage 5.”

AISD is recommending people do the following:

  • Either get vaccinated or a booster shot to bring up immunity levels against the omicron variant
  • Get tested for COVID-19
  • Wear two layers of well-fitting masks while on campus, including in classrooms

There are 11 testings “hubs” scattered throughout AISD at high school and elementary schools, the letter says. Those schools are:

  • Akins, Eastside, Navarro, Northeast and Travis early college high schools
  • McCallum High School
  • Cunningham, Kiker, Norman-Sims and Pillow elementary schools

The sites will open Jan. 3 and run from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday. There will also be after-hours testing from 3-7 p.m. on Jan. 3 at AISD’s central office, located at 4000 S. I-35 Frontage Rd.

The letter pointed out Travis County’s vaccination rate, nearly 70%, is higher than the state’s rate of 61%, and AISD has one of the lowest infection rates of any school district in Texas “because our community supports students and staff wearing masks at school.”

It’s also the first time AISD is going back to class during the pandemic when vaccines are available for everyone ages 5 years or older, the letter said.

AISD said it will also continue to encourage social distancing, use advanced air filtration systems indoors, pool testing and eating lunches outside. Also, if you feel sick, just stay home, the letter said.

KXAN reached out to other school districts in the Austin area asking if their COVID-19 protocols will change due to the recent surge.

Eanes ISD

The Eanes Independent School District said it doesn’t have plans to adjust protocols at this time. The district made masks optional in late November but is strongly encouraging mask wearing due to Austin-Travis County’s recent move to Stage 4 risk-based guidelines.

Leaders are telling those in Eanes ISD to follow the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on quarantining, if they test positive for COVID-19. That means doing the following:

  • Stay home for five days.
  • If you have no symptoms or your symptoms are resolving after five days, you may end isolation.
  • Continue to wear a mask around others for five additional days.

The district said if you don’t want to wear a mask at school for five additional days, you will need to stay home to isolate for a full 10 days. The district is also asking people who have traveled recently to get tested for the virus.

Leander ISD

The Leander Independent School District told KXAN to help minimize the spread of COVID-19 and to keep students, teachers, staff, and families safe, it is encouraging wearing double-layered masks when inside and social distancing is not possible.

The district said it will still operate under the protocols by the Texas Health and Human Services Department, requiring a 10-day isolation period. Leaders say they do anticipate the state will align with the new CDC guidelines in the coming weeks. They have contacted the Texas Education Agency (TEA) asking for clarity as soon as possible.

Leander ISD has a vaccination booster clinic scheduled for Monday, Jan. 3 from 12 – 4 p.m., however all the slots are booked.

Students return to school on Jan. 4.

Del Valle ISD

Del Valle ISD is welcoming students back Jan. 4. The district’s current COVID-19 protocols are as follows:

  • Masks are required for all students, staff, and visitors to DVISD buildings, according to the school board’s resolution that remains in place. 
  • Any staff or students who are ill should not come to school and follow absence procedures.
  • Staff and students who receive a positive Covid-19 test should email information to covid19@dvisd.net.
  • Additional guidelines and information is available at www.dvisd.net/covid19

DVISD says it will follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidance for quarantine:

  • Individuals who test positive for Covid-19 should isolate for 5 days.
  • Return to school is permitted on day six if the individual is asymptomatic or symptoms have resolved with no fever.
  • If symptoms have not resolved or the individual has a fever, isolation should continue until symptoms have resolved.
  • An updated decision map is available at Del Valle ISD’s website.

Free Covid testing for staff and students

  • Drive-up rapid tests for symptomatic staff and students are available daily from 7:30-9:30 a.m. at the DVISD Administration Building and require pre-registration here.
  • Students who become symptomatic at school can be tested in the nurse’s office, with parent permission.

Manor ISD

Students return to Manor ISD classrooms on Jan. 5.

In a letter to the district community, the superintendent says the mask mandate remains in effect for all individuals entering a Manor ISD facility

The district is offering testing at Manor High School. Find out what time slots are available here.

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