As Fort Bend ISD prepares to return to school in person Aug. 11, district officials shared updated health and safety protocols, including how it would respond to positive COVID-19 cases.
Pilar Westbrook, FBISD’s executive director of social emotional learning and comprehensive health, said during the July 19 board of trustees meeting that student and staff health and safety is a priority for the district as all students return to the classroom in person for the 2021-22 school year. The Texas Legislature did not fund virtual schools offered by public school districts during the 87th regular legislative session, which ended in May.
The district’s COVID-19 protocols include providing personal protective equipment related to hand washing and sanitizing, cleaning district facilities and maintaining 3 feet of social distancing when possible.
“We know that we have to provide the leeway for campuses to provide education to 100% of their students in person,” Westbrook said, adding that campuses will receive guidance on how to social distance in the best manner.
Additionally, students and staff will self-screen for symptoms prior to reporting to school, and positive COVID-19 tests will be reported to the district. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will receive isolation and quarantine guidance from the district as well as final approval to return to school based on their unique circumstance, according to the FBISD Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services plan.
If someone is determined by the county—the agency the district is partnering with for contact tracing efforts—to be in close contact of a positive case, that person will quarantine for 10 days without a test, or for seven days if a negative PCR test is conducted on day five, Westbrook said. Individuals who are fully vaccinated are not required to quarantine if exposed to a positive COVID-19 case, and proof of vaccination must be provided, Westbrook said.
Lastly, if a vaccinated or unvaccinated person is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, that individual cannot return to campus within 24 hours of experiencing symptoms and must all attain a negative PCR test, an alternative medical diagnosis or let 10 days pass since symptoms first appeared, district documents show.
While students are out of school due to a COVID-19-related incident, they will be able to access lessons online using Schoology and connect with teachers via video conferencing, said Melissa Hubbard, executive director of teaching and learning. Teachers can also choose, but are not required, to teach online and in-person students synchronously.
“We want to maintain the instruction even if kids may not be physically seated in the classroom because we are already dealing with learning loss,” Hubbard said.
The district will continue to report COVID-19 cases to the Texas Education Agency weekly, Westbrook said.
While the COVID-19 vaccine is available for individuals age 12 years and older, the district will not require students or staff to be vaccinated.
Masks are also optional after Gov. Greg Abbott’s May 18 executive order prohibited districts from imposing a mask mandate.
"If students or staff choose to wear a mask, they are permitted to do so, and that choice will be respected,” Westbrook said.
In addition to caring for students' physical health, Westbrook said the district is focused on whole-child health, including mental health and counseling initiatives.
FBISD’s Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services plan, which details the health and safety measures for the 2021-22 school year, is available in English and Spanish.