School districts and systems across the state of Texas will be required to offer on-campus classes, comply with statewide mask orders, and notify parents and staff of any confirmed coronavirus cases within a school during the upcoming 2020-21 school year, according to the latest guidelines released by the Texas Education Agency on July 7.

The guidelines address on-campus activities, attendance requirements, and health and safety precautions that should be enforced at schools. According to the agency, guidelines and requirements are subject to change as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

“While it is not possible to eliminate all risk of furthering the spread of COVID-19, the current science suggests there are many steps schools can take to reduce the risks to students, teachers, staff, and their families significantly,” the TEA document states. “This guidance document contains information on four sets of practices that minimize the likelihood of viral spread, including some that are requirements for all schools and others that are recommendations.”

According to the TEA, the following requirements and guidelines will be in place for the 2020-21 school year. A full list of guidelines can be found here.

On-campus and virtual learning: School systems must provide daily on-campus attendance for students unless a campus is closed. However, parents can request a student be offered virtual teaching instead of in-person classes if it is offered by the school system. To earn credit for a class, students will be required to attend at least 90% of a class, but attendance can be earned through virtual instruction.

Confirmed cases: Schools will be required to notify students, teachers and staff if a school does have a confirmed case of COVID-19. When an individual has been confirmed to have COVID-19, the district must close off areas “heavily used” by that individual until the areas have been disinfected or until three days have passed since their last visit. Staff and students who have COVID-19 must remain off campus until they meet “criteria for reentry,” which require at least 10 days to pass since first symptoms, symptoms to improve and for three days to pass since recovering.

Suspected cases: Students who show COVID-19 symptoms must be separated from other students until they are picked up from campus by a parent or guardian. For individuals who have left school with COVID-19 symptoms but have not been tested, the same criteria for re-entry will be used to determine when it is safe to return to campus.

Screenings: Teachers and staff members will be required to “self-screen” for COVID-19 each day prior to arriving to campus, which will include taking one’s temperature and evaluating themselves for symptoms. Campus visitors will also be screened for COVID-19.

Masks: Schools must comply with the governor's orders regarding masks and face coverings, and districts can require face coverings for students and staff when “developmentally appropriate.”

Social distancing: Students should be encouraged to social distance in classrooms, and desks should be spaced 6 feet apart when space allows.

Transportation: Parents should be encouraged to drop students off at school or have students walk to campus when possible. For school buses, windows should be opened when possible, and districts can require the use of hand sanitizer before entering a bus. Additionally, buses should be cleaned after each trip.

Hygiene: Schools should have sanitizer and hand-washing stations as school entrances; encourage students, staff and visitors to wash hands frequently; increase cleaning practices; open school windows to improve air flow when possible; and provide instruction to students about hygiene and reducing the spread of germs.

Staff considerations: Teachers and staff should be trained to follow and enforce coronavirus protocols, and districts should reduce in-person meetings when possible.