Beginning Oct. 14, FISD has revised its definition of close contact to align with the most recent guidance from the Texas Education Agency, said Daniel Stockton, the district executive director of government and legal affairs, at an Oct. 13 meeting. Several area school districts have adopted the definition as well, he said.
As of Oct. 14, FISD’s close contact definition is “an individual within 6 feet of a confirmed positive case for a largely uninterrupted or sustained extended contact period throughout the course of a day for approximately 15 minutes,” Stockton said at the meeting.
Additional factors such as case/contact masking—which is when both the infectious individual and the potential close contact have been consistently, properly masked— ventilation, presence of dividers and case symptomatology may affect this determination or being directly exposed to infectious secretions, such as being coughed or sneezed on.
“The primary change with this update, the primary difference, is that beginning [Oct. 14], we will no longer quarantine individuals who were within 6 feet for 15 minutes if both the infected individual and the contact were properly wearing appropriate face coverings,” Stockton said.
Since July 20, FISD has had a total of 985 individuals who have completed quarantine after an on-campus close contact, Stockton said.
Of the total, nine individuals with no known off-campus exposure have tested positive, he said. The same nine individuals were exposed in situations when masks were not required, such as lunch, athletics and prekindergarten through second-grade classrooms.
“As of right now, we are unaware of any cases of students or staff members in the district that have been contracted on campus when people were wearing masks,” Stockton said.
With this “significant change” in the close-contact definition, Stockton said FISD expects a decrease in the number of students needing to be quarantined and that the district will have a quicker response time on close-contact reviews.
Pre-K through second-grade classrooms will continue to be wholly quarantined in the event of a COVID-19 case because masks are not required in those classrooms, Stockton said of the new definition.
But third- through fifth-grade classrooms and buses, where masks are required, will not result in automatic quarantines, he said, and will instead be part of the close-contact review.
"We will actually determine who meets the definition and only quarantine those who meet the definition," Stockton said.
At the meeting, trustee Natalie Hebert asked about what the new definition means for students currently quarantined.
Students under current quarantine for close contact can reach out to their campuses. If FISD determines both the infected individual and the close contact were wearing masks, they may be able to return to campus, Stockton said.
FISD will continue to monitor district data as the change is implemented, Stockton said.
“We are prepared to reverse the definition back to the way it was if we believe this is beginning to cause problems for our campuses and resulting in more positive cases,” he said.