On Wednesday afternoon, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) issued its updated Public Health Planning Guidance. The new guidance says school boards may continue to require students to wear masks while attending school or school activities.

The prevention and mitigation practices outlined in this document are designed to significantly reduce the likelihood that a coronavirus outbreak occurs on campus. Consistently implementing recommendations to the extent feasible is the best way to reduce the potential negative impact of infection on students’ educational experiences. Additionally, systems should consider stringently applying recommended practices to adults on campuses, even when it might not be feasible to do so for students, to more fully protect adult teachers and staff who are generally at greater risk from COVID-19 than students.

Schools must also keep students’ desks 6 feet apart if possible. If students are seated within 6 feet of each other, schools must increase hand sanitizing, hand washing, and airflow in the classroom if possible.

Also addressed in the updated guidelines is that school districts can still offer in-person and virtual classes, and students must attend 90 percent of their classes to receive credit in those classes.

“Given the public health situation, student attendance may be earned through the delivery of virtual instruction.”

The announcement came on the same day that the state of Texas has begun allowing teachers and child care workers to receive the COVID vaccine, following direction from the Federal Department of Health and Human Services.  

Those allowed to receive the vaccine in this new approval are “people who work in school and child care operations.” The federal directive also defined the people eligible as “those who work in pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools, as well as Head Start and Early Head Start programs (including teachers, staff, and bus drivers) and those who work as or for licensed child care providers, including center-based and family care providers.”

Contact your local school district to get an update on their mask requirements.

Tera Collum

Tera Collum has 13 years experience as a government and economics teacher in Texas public schools. She recently was the director of The Travis Institute of Educational Policy and Teachers for Texas.