El Paso, TX

Where El Paso School Districts Stand on School’s Reopening and Potential COVID Cases

Tom Handy

As the virus reemerges, the CDC has recommended fully vaccinated people wear a mask to prevent a further spread of the virus. As of Tuesday, approximately 68% of people age 12 and older had been fully vaccinated in El Paso.

One of the most important things about the recommendations given to schools is going to be based upon the vaccination,” Dr. Hector Ocaranza, El Paso’s City-County Health Authority said.

Ocaranza continues to offer guidance to local districts throughout the pandemic.

“The CDC has continued to recommend that anybody that is within the six feet, more than 15 minutes of exposure has to be considered high risk, and if they are vaccinated, then we're not going to be quarantining those people, unless they develop symptoms,” he said.

It will be impossible for schools to identify every COVID case.

One of the things also is that schools have a flexibility for the attendance if somebody is sick,” he said. “The schools can decide, other preventive measures and their plans are very comprehensive, but if the parents decide to send their children to school with a face covering, great, that's another layer of protection.

Guidance from the Texas Administration Administration requires these three guidelines if someone tests positive for COVID:

1. The school must notify the local health department

2. Close off areas heavily used by the positive individual until they are disinfected

3. Notify all teachers, staff, and families when a positive case is identified among someone who participates in on-campus activities

El Paso Teachers Association President said, “Our transmission rate is low, the percentage is fairly good but it could be better, we have a lot of parents and kids that could be vaccinated that are not vaccinated.”
Governor Greg Abbott repeated his message on social media that he believes the time for mask mandates has passed and it’s now “time for personal responsibility.”

Responses from El Paso Independent School Districts on positive COVID cases

This is the statement from El Paso ISD on a positive COVID case:

Anytime we have a report of a positive case we do contact tracing to who has been exposed to that person and then determine the level of risk. We have high risk that requires quarantine and low risk that does not require quarantine. Now there is an added rule from the department and CDC that if a person is fully vaccinated, it does not require a quarantine so they are no longer required high-risk exposures. If they are fully vaccinated they do not have to quarantine. So that’s an additional layer and part of the contact tracing is to ask and that will be by the nursing staff that will ask those questions." - EPISD spokeswoman, Melissa Martinez.

This is the statement from Socorro ISD on a positive COVID case:

If a student or employee tests positive for COVID-19, we will continue our practice of openly communicating with parents and staff. Our health safety team will conduct contact tracing and notify identified close contacts. Guidance from health officials will be followed regarding asking individuals to quarantine. Current guidance from the health department does differentiate protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. If a student or employee tests positive for COVID-19, we will continue our practice of openly communicating with parents and staff.” -SISD spokesperson.

This is the response from Ysleta ISD on a positive COVID case:

Campuses and facilities will continue to be disinfected as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and hand sanitizer will be readily available. Students, staff, teachers, and administrators will have the option to wear face masks; social distancing will be maximized to the extent possible; student desk dividers will be provided upon parent request; and COVID-19 rapid testing and contact tracing will take place as needed.” -- YISD spokesperson.

This is the response from Anthony ISD on a positive COVID case:

If they end up testing positive, the first thing our protocols do is we have to figure out if the student has been on campus, where they've been on campus, and that level of exposure. The person that figures that out is our nurses. We go by what our nurses recommend, so they start doing the contact tracing, they start talking to the parent. Sometimes kids tested positive and the parents tell us from home, and with our rapid testing, it could be that they test positive here so it all depends. An investigation starts to determine whether or not a class or students, or an employee or a teacher or somebody that needs to be quarantined. So we try and determine the level of exposure, if that student tested positive, obviously, the student would have to stay at home and be in isolation, and then whoever might have had high-risk exposure, would have to be quarantined.” - Dr. Oscar Troncoso; Anthony ISD Superintendent.

This is the statement from Cautillo ISD on a positive COVID case:

Close contact with a lab-confirmed individual requires 10 days of quarantine following the last exposure to COVID-19 positive individual. Fully vaccinated individuals and individuals previously infected with COVID-19 are not required to quarantine as long as they meet the criteria listed in CISD Safety Protocols and do not have symptoms. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination or previous infection will be required to avoid being quarantined. Students who have tested positive for COVID-19 will be required to submit a screening tool to the campus nurse for review and clearance after 10 days of isolation with no symptoms and fever-free for 24 hours before returning to school.” -- Canutillo ISD Back to School Powerpoint

This is the response from Clint ISD on a positive COVID case:

One of our core values is transparency. So therefore we will notify the families if there was any close contact with anybody who was positive. We will inform the parents, we will inform the staff, we will not maintain a hidden agenda for anything. We need to work together to be transparent and give everybody the information they need to have in order to make the proper decisions, ‘will they send the kids to school or not? Will they be safe or not?’ So we all need to work together. I'm going to do my part, but I am going to make sure that we are fully transparent with our community, our parents. The last thing we want is for someone to be infected because of our lack of information that they receive from the school districts we will not do that. We want to make sure that everybody gets the information from us. We will be fully transparent with our community.” Dr. Juan Martinez; Clint ISD Superintendent.

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