District leadership and the Safely Reopen CCISD committee said Clear Creek ISD will make as much of a return as possible to pre-pandemic operations for the 2021-22 school year, eliminating many of the previous school year’s restrictions and revising its COVID-19 protocols accordingly.
The committee met three times in late May and early June to develop instructional, operational and health procedures for staff and students headed into the new school year. The 15 staffers, 15 parents and five students on the committee were tasked with identifying the COVID-19 health data points that would necessitate executing additional safety measures, including any mandating of masks.
All recommendations were presented and discussed by district leaders at a June 14 board of trustees workshop. Key areas of committee focus included careful review of the COVID-19 Standard Response Protocols and contact tracing procedures; each of the presented recommendations was supported by all committee members, district leaders said at the workshop.
Superintendent Eric Williams said the committee’s efforts were essential in ensuring the district is well prepared for whatever the 2021-22 school year will bring.
“It was a big time commitment, including time spent outside of the committee meetings reviewing documents, and they definitely helped us become better prepared,” he said of the committee members and their work.
Here is what CCISD community members need to know about what working and learning will look like on campuses this fall.
Per committee recommendations, all pre-pandemic activities at CCISD will resume with no restrictions, including classroom collaboration, recess and parent engagement on campus.
“The goal is really to restore a sense of community in our schools,” Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Karen Engle said at the meeting. “That collaboration, that celebration, that is really what it means to be in school.”
At meal times, students will continue to have a grab-and-go option, and water fountains and refillable water bottle stations will be available for use throughout the day.
Some school day-related recommendations came from lessons learned during COVID-19, including the extension of the school day. An extra 10 minutes was added to each day last year to allow for successful completion of health and safety protocols; five of those 10 minutes will remain during the day to address instructional needs. High schools will end at 2:35 p.m., elementary schools at 3:20 p.m. and intermediate schools at 4:05 p.m. Students and staff will be encouraged to remain home if showing any signs of illness.
District leaders learned some attendance-related incentives were likely counterproductive in terms of keeping students home when they are sick, Engle said. Therefore, the district will no longer give out perfect attendance awards and is waiving the attendance-related criteria for spring semester exam exemptions.
Community feedback overwhelmingly indicated a desire for the continuation of detailed cleaning protocols, so those will remain in place in 2021-22, district leaders said.
The funds to provide cleaning supplies will come out of the district’s current operations budget, and hand sanitizers will be made available in classrooms. High-touch areas will also continue to be cleaned throughout the day with all schools cleaned nightly. In the event of an active COVID-19 case, staff will pandemic clean per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Per Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-36, school districts in Texas are prohibited from mandating mask wearing as of June 4. District leaders said that the authority to require protective equipment in an employment setting, including masks, “is not necessarily affected by GA-36.”
This means there could be reasons for requiring use of masks based on a student’s individual health plan, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Casey O’Pry said June 14. Face coverings will be made available upon request during the year, and Engle said summer school has gone well so far with the mask-optional policy.
There are currently less than 10 active cases across the district, and Engle said one was in an employee as of June 14; case counts will continue to be displayed on the district website.
Students and staff members who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will not be required to quarantine if exposed to a COVID-19-positive person as long as they remain asymptomatic. For those who do contract COVID-19, students will be excused from school with appropriate documentation, and employees may use accrued leave.
If someone in a student or staff’s family tests positive for COVID-19, the student or staff member is still required to report this through the proper district channels. However, if the student or staff member is fully vaccinated, they are only required to quarantine if they show symptoms of illness.
So far, 1,600-1,700 employees have voluntarily uploaded their vaccination cards, O’Pry said. Employees who have been identified by the local health department as a close contact may take accrued leave to quarantine, or they can follow the CDC Return to Work Guidelines.
These guidelines include: a pre-screening for symptoms prior to entering the workplace and a screening once at the workplace; use of cloth masks in accordance with federal, state and local regulations; regularly disinfecting shared equipment and common areas; and social distancing as work duties permit.
Contact tracing, COVID-19 response protocols
Public health officials will be responsible for contact tracing as well as for advising families about quarantine procedures, regardless of where the exposure occurs, district leaders said. School administrators will no longer be dictating quarantines, so it is up to public health officials to make those decisions, Williams said.
CCISD will communicate any known positive cases to local health authorities and, per committee recommendations, parents will still receive a general classroom letter if there is a positive case. Parents can then choose if they want to quarantine their child—unless local health authorities impose a quarantine.
“This is obviously a major step forward in how we’re going to operate next year,” trustee Scott Bowen said June 14.
Health mitigation protocols have replaced the COVID-19 Standard Response Protocols for 2021-22. A detailed description of the new five tiers is available here. The district activates its own contact tracing system in Stage 2, which would involve the resurgence of COVID-19, a variant or another infectious disease.
CCISD plans to start the 2021-22 school year at the fourth of its five stages, CCISD Coordinator of Health Services Marina Keeton said. Reaching Stage 5 would involve a federal entity declaring the COVID-19 pandemic is now an endemic, which has not yet happened. An infectious disease is said to be endemic in a population when there is a perpetually existing infection within a geographic location.