Resources for School Leaders
Local Emergency Rules
The Austin-Travis County Health Authority adopted new emergency rules that relate to reopening schools to promote the health and safety of Austin-Travis County residents in the fight against COVID-19.
Legal guidelines for returning to school are determined by the Texas Governor’s Office, the Texas Attorney General’s Office, and the Texas Education Association. Determinations by these entities overrule any orders or rules set by local authorities.
Guidance for Opening Schools
After collaborating with school district leaders, Austin Public Health also released additional guidance on reopening for Austin-Travis County schools. This document helps school boards and administrators understand what they can do to keep students and staff safe as the school year re-starts.
- The practices described in the guidance document are essential baseline actions in order to minimize risk of exposure to COVID-19 for students, staff, and families. The recommendations include additional strategies that schools can use to minimize the spread of COVID-19. All recommended practices will not be possible in every setting and should be tailored to each school or district as appropriate.
- The guidance in the document is based on the best available evidence at this time. APH guidance for schools may be updated throughout the school year as new information becomes available.
Frequently Asked Questions from Schools
This FAQs document includes answers to questions about COVID-19 asked by school leaders during meetings and by email. Austin Public Health is updating this document on a regular basis.
Instructions for Quarantine
When schools learn that someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 was on campus, schools must identify that person’s close contacts at the school based on the CDC definition of close contacts. Schools must then notify those close contacts of the exposure and the need to quarantine. The close contacts should not return to school or campus activities until the quarantine period has ended.
The CDC notes that a 14-day quarantine is most protective. However, the CDC allows for shorter quarantine options. The Austin Public Health “How Long to Quarantine” flowchart outlines in what circumstances a person should quarantine for 14 days and in what situations they could consider a shorter quarantine period. School districts/schools may continue advising a 14-day quarantine for students and staff if they so choose.
The following documents are resources schools can share with staff and families of students who need to quarantine:
How to Quarantine Document
This document explains quarantining to families of children who have been identified as close contacts of someone with COVID-19. Note, this document focuses on 14-day quarantine and does not reference shorter quarantine options.
When and How Long to Quarantine Document
This document can be used to help school staff and students’ families understand how long a person in different scenarios must quarantine. It also explains when a person can be around others after they had or likely had COVID-19.
This version can be used by schools advising a 14-day quarantine for all close contacts:
This version can be used by schools allowing for 14, 10, and 7-day quarantine options:
Texas Medical Association Physician Return to School Note
Austin Public Health shared this TMA resource with physicians and encouraged physicians to provide detailed return to school documentation to facilitate communication between healthcare providers and schools. Schools could also consider sharing this document with families and encouraging them to take it with them to COVID-19-related medical appointments and ask the healthcare provider to fill it out.
Recommended Uses of COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests for Schools in Austin/Travis County
The interim guidance documents below include recommended approaches for public and private schools choosing to participate in the state’s K-12 COVID-19 Testing Project through the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM). These documents include recommendations for identifying schools in which to focus testing, prioritizing who gets tested in schools, and reporting test results. The flow charts provide recommendations on next steps based on results of the rapid antigen tests that schools administer for symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. More information about the K-12 COVID-19 Testing Project is available here.
School Resources for Families
Many of the determinations related to school openings lie with school boards and school systems. Please contact your school administration for specific information about your school’s back-to-school plan.
Physical Distancing Tips
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, some parents are having their children join learning “pods.” These pods may take a variety of forms, including but not limited to:
- Facilitated Pods - A facilitator, who may or may not be a certified teacher, supervises and assists children while they engage in their school’s remote learning activities.
- Co-Ops - Parents from two or more families take turns hosting all the children in their homes for remote learning.
- Micro-schools - A certified teacher teaches the children who may not be enrolled in a formal school or using a school’s remote curriculum.
- Family, Friend, and Neighbor Care - An informal care arrangement with a family member, friend, or neighbor to care for school-age children from one or more families during the day.
- Community Learning Spaces - Facilitated by community organizations, groups of parents, faith-based organizations, or public entities that provide in-person support to students during times of remote instruction.
Similar to COVID-19 health concerns with children going back to school, there are health and safety considerations for learning pods. It is not possible to reduce all risk of COVID-19 in pods.
Get health and safety tips for joining a learning pod and hosting a learning pod: