As Dripping Springs ISD prepares for 100% in-person learning this fall, district leaders are considering appropriate protocols for COVID-19 health and safety.

Superintendent Holly Morris-Kuentz presented the DSISD board of trustees with a draft of coronavirus-related policies at a July 19 agenda review meeting for the school board, including updated quarantine protocols. Per Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines, the proposed plan would require coronavirus-positive students to stay home from school for at least 24 hours after fever and other symptoms have resolved, and at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared, or in the case of asymptomatic patients, since a positive test was administered.

In general, students and staff would be asked to voluntarily stay home if they have any symptoms of COVID-19 or another infectious illness, or if they have had direct contact with someone who tests positive for coronavirus. Per Texas Education Agency guidelines, close contacts will typically not be required to quarantine. Morris-Kuentz said if an outbreak does occur, the district will work to limit any potential quarantine protocols to specific groups.

"Our goal is to really keep it programmatic, keep it small, at the time when that's warranted for those specific cases," she said. "More programmatic, or school-based or classroom-based, as opposed to system-wide."

The district's elementary schools would have slightly heightened procedures since most elementary aged students have not yet had access to a vaccine; if anyone in a classroom tests positive for COVID-19, a notice would be sent to the whole class informing them of the case.

Morris-Kuentz emphasized that the Hays County Health Department will continue to conduct its own contact tracing and monitoring, which could reach onto campuses and require additional quarantine scenarios.

In a continuation of DSISD's policies since May, masking will be optional for students and staff. Vaccines will not be required, although families are recommended to consider vaccinating eligible students ahead of the start of school in the draft protocols. Additionally, most school activities, including recess, cafeteria service, field trips, extracurricular gatherings and performances will return to normal operations this fall, and visitors will be admitted, Morris-Kuentz said.

Certain coronavirus-era additions are here to stay, however; for instance, teachers asked to continue to utilize Canvas, a virtual learning platform, in classrooms.

If COVID-19 conditions on campus or in the community become more severe, DSISD could implement "Phase 2" protocols, which might include limiting campus visitors, requiring distancing on campus, limiting school-related travel and heightened quarantine measures, among other restrictions.

Morris-Kuentz said the administration would continue to take feedback on the draft protocols leading up to the start of school Aug. 17.