Is RISD implementing the 1.6.22 CDC updated guidance in relation to isolation and quarantine?

RISD has implemented for employees the January 13, 2022 updated guidance for school settings related to quarantine and isolation periods for people who test positive for COVID-19 or become symptomatic.

The updated guidance permits people to return to work/school after 5 quarantine days if they meet the criteria of symptoms improving, at least 5 days since the positive test date or symptom start date, and fever free for at least 24 hours.

While Texas school districts are permitted by the state of Texas to implement these updated guidelines for employees, state of Texas requirements currently prevent school districts from implementing the 5 day guidance for students.

When or if the state of Texas updates its requirements for students to match CDC recommendations, then RISD will be able to apply the 5 day return guidance for students.

What public health entities does RISD consult when determining requirements and protocols? What data is RISD evaluating?

RISD remains aware of updated recommendations and guidance from Dallas County Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Pediatrics Association, and the City of Richardson Health Authority. The Texas Education Agency also provides guidance and some requirements.

RISD monitors overall positive case trends in Dallas County, Dallas County’s current threat level, trends within RISD’s geographic portion of Dallas County, and reported active and cumulative positive cases within RISD schools and facilities. The district closely follows the impact that clusters of positive cases at individual schools may have on individual classrooms, grade levels, or activities, and also remains aware of the impact that positive cases are having on both the adult and pediatric critical healthcare systems within Dallas County.

In addition to considering the guidance, recommendations, and requirements from public health entities, a group of physicians that reside within RISD serve in an advisory capacity for COVID issues and risk mitigation topics.

The district has developed a framework that includes specific metrics to help guide decisions when it may be appropriate to adjust COVID-mitigation protocols.

The Guidance for COVID Mitigation Measures includes the five metrics determined by the CDC that should be considered when evaluating mitigation protocols. It is updated on the RISD COVID website on a weekly basis with the latest available data.

The five metrics include community transmission, health system capacity, vaccination coverage, early detection, and at-risk population. The district evaluates these data points weekly, both at the county level and within RISD zip codes as data permits. Click here to see the Guidance for COVID Mitigation Measures.

How does the district know if a positive case is due to virus exposure at school?  

It is difficult to determine exactly where and when someone contracts any virus. However, RISD Health Services tracks each positive case, and also those potentially exposed while at school. When those potentially exposed at school then begin testing positive in significant clusters – for example in a classroom, grade level, or other student cohort, Dallas County is consulted for guidance to determine the likelihood of linked cases within the cohort.

Does RISD contact trace positive cases and mandatory quarantine students? Is there a difference between the process at elementary and secondary?

RISD Health Services contact traces each positive case to be able to determine what classroom(s) and/or school activities the positive person has been associated with. A notice of potential exposure is then generated to the parents of each student in an associated classroom or activity. Students who are experiencing symptoms are required to quarantine, while parents of students who are not symptomatic may choose for their student to quarantine as a precaution but are not required. 

Additionally, any unvaccinated person with a positive household member is required to mandatory quarantine and will follow RISD quarantine guidelines. 

This process was in place for secondary schools since the first week of school, while this same process was announced to elementary families effective September 9. The decision was made to shift elementary students from mandatory close contact quarantines to optional if a student is not experiencing symptoms after RISD reviewed beginning of year data that indicated 93% of students placed on mandatory quarantine had not converted to a positive case and yet were still required to miss in person school. 

The decision was made in an effort to keep healthy students in school and learning. RISD continues to monitor all positive cases. In addition, the shift alleviates misunderstanding and confusion stemming from the previous differences between elementary and secondary protocols.

What happens with learning if an elementary school or classroom temporarily shifts to virtual instruction?

Thanks to the RISD community’s support of district bond referendums, each RISD student is assigned a device (iPad at elementary or Chromebook at secondary). Those devices, and hotspots if necessary, would be used by students to connect with a teacher for instruction and support for the duration of the shift to virtual. The instruction may be synchronous or partially asynchronous, depending on the grade level and subject. Ideally, the elementary student would be instructed by their existing teacher, but it might be a different RISD teacher depending on illness and other factors.

What is/was the legal basis for RISD to require masks while indoors during the school day?

School districts have statutory powers that allow them to protect the health and safety of their students.

RISD has periodically required masks in schools during the pandemic based on pandemic conditions within the district and in consultation with guidelines from public health authorities.

When masks are required, it is done through the exclusive school board authority granted by Chapter 11 of the Texas Education Code to oversee the management of Richardson ISD as a matter of local control.