Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQ

As Alamo Heights ISD continues to monitor the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), we know there are a lot of questions surrounding the impact of this respiratory disease.  AHISD wants to keep our parents and community informed as we work closely with local health officials, the Texas Education Agency, and the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC).  We will update the FAQ as needed.

1. When will we know about what school will look like for the fall 2020?
Parents have the open of having sending their students to campus (i.e., face-to-face, or F2F) or having students engage in remote learning from home (i.e. Heights @ Home, or H@H), which at this point they have already selected.  A variety of information about the reopening of school and these two options is found on the district’s COVID-19: Reopening Schools webpage. 

As of August 7 and consistent with the recommendation of the Bexar County Metro Health department at that time, AHISD planned for all students to begin the school year remotely. This means that the school year is slated to begin for students August 17 remotely and continues through labor day to begin our face to face learning on Tuesday, September 8, 2020, depending on the local health situation at that time. If there are changes in this plan based on the guidance from local health officials, parents will be emailed about those changes. 

On August 7, Bexar County Metro Health issued new recommendations, so AHISD is currently analyzing those recommendations and their potential impact on planning.  

2. How did AHISD decide what to do for the reopening of schools in fall 2020?
Work teams met weekly May-June to generate a workable plan.  To help us to develop the best plan, we convened an advisory team of parents, teachers and students who met twice in June and once in July to provide feedback on each iteration of our planning at those particular points in time.

The CDC, The Texas Education Agency, and the San Antonio/Bexar County COVID-19 Economic Transition Team provided solid public health recommendations from which we began.  Likewise, we also had the practical lessons learned by schools in Europe and Asia who have already been through reopening. 

3. Who served on the Re-Entry Advisory Committee?
The committee was made up of parents, staff and a student.  This committee provided input to the district “work team” who planned the re-entry to our schools for the Fall 2020.  Staff members on the committee were representative of all campuses, and parents on the committee had previously served on other district leadership teams and also represent all the different campus perspectives.  You can find a listing of the members of this Advisory Committee at the following link: AHISD Advisory Committee for Reopening 

4. Will student on the free/reduced meals program still get meals if they signed up for Heights@Home?
Yes.  Our Child Nutrition Department will be providing five days worth of meals once a week to families in a drive-thru pick-up location in the back of Alamo Heights Junior School, like we did most of the summer. 

5. Will campus facilities, such as AHJS track and elementary playgrounds, be open to the public during the summer?
The CDC has recommended the community mitigation strategy of social distancing to slow the spread of COVID 19, which includes the deep cleaning of our facilities and the avoidance of congregation in public areas. Moving forward, AHISD will keep these areas locked as part of our effort to participate in our community response to helping to slow the spread of COVID 19. We know you recognize the importance for all of us to work together to protect the overall health of the entire community. 

6. Does the CDC recommend face masks or covering to prevent the spread of the virus? 
Wear cloth face coverings in public settings when around people not living in your household and particularly where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations. Cloth face coverings may slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected. That’s why it’s important for everyone to practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from other people) and wear cloth face coverings in public settings. Cloth face coverings provide an extra layer to help prevent the respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and onto other people. (Source: CDC Frequently Asked Questions)

7. What does the governor’s mask order require? 
The Governor's order from July 2, 2020 requires individuals to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth when inside a public building or when in an outdoor public space wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household. In these places if you are able to maintain six feet between you and other people, you may temporarily remove your mask to take a “mask break” while you maintain that distance. To reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 in public settings, however, keeping your mask on at all times makes practical sense because you cannot always predict the movement of others around you. Likewise, you may also consider wearing your masks at all times- even when six feet apart- to show consideration for others and to model for our students and our community. 

 8. What are the expectations for staff and students regarding masks/face coverings? 
All staff are required to wear masks in the building and outside, when 6 feet physical distancing cannot be maintained.  Masks prevent a person from spreading their germs to others. All students, grades 4th and above are required to wear masks. For Pre-K through 3rd grade, masks are recommended, and they are required upon arrival and dismissal, whether it is on the bus or in the car.  They will also have a face shield assigned to wear in their classroom. Many of the students this age, have been wearing masks this summer and may continue to do so.

9. Students in grade 4 and above will be required to wear masks in classrooms. What procedures are in place to enforce this requirement? 
The requirement for students to wear masks and to follow your directives as a teacher is the same as other expectations and responsibilities outlined in the AHISD Student Code of Conduct, which are provided to promote a safe and orderly environment conducive to learning and good citizenship. As such, campuses and classrooms will establish clear expectations and violations of those expectations will be handled like other violations of the Student Code of Conduct. As always, you have support from your campus administrators with regard to enforcing all school rules, including the wearing of masks. 

10. AHISD requires face coverings for students in grade 4 and above, but only recommends them for Prek-grade 3. Why the difference?
It is true that the CDC recommends the use of masks for children two years of age and older as a way to reduce risk of spreading the virus (Source: CDC Frequently Asked Questions), and AHISD also recommends their use for PreK-grade 3, even though they are not required for those grades. The CDC also notes that face coverings may not always be appropriate in a work environment, such as when conditions inhibit breathing, if the wearer is unable to remove it without help, etc. The CDC recommends that face coverings should not be worn if their use creates a new risk that exceeds the benefit of slowing the spread of the virus (Source: CDC Frequently Asked Questions). In such cases, OSHA recommends the use of face shields. Children in an early childhood setting are more likely to fidget with masks, touch their faces inordinately, and create new risks that would exceed the benefits, especially when considering the minimizing impact of face shields. Likewise, the American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends masks for children unless the potential harms outweigh the benefits, which we have determined can be the case with early childhood education. 

11. What is the procedure for reporting of COVID positive cases / symptoms?
Staff can complete the Health Services Reporting Form (See the l Process Map in the AHISD Back to School Health and Safety Guidelines) or call their campus nurse if (1) they develop symptoms of COVID or (2) have a positive lab-confirmed COVID-19 test. For reporting students in this situation, families should notify the principal’s office or the campus nurse. As a teacher, if a parent reports this information to you, instruct parents that their student and all their children need to stay home AND ask them to call the school nurse. 

12. If an employee is at work and is showing symptoms of the virus, what do we do?
While at work, if an employee begins to experience COVID type symptoms, administration should be notified immediately to get relief from their classroom and report to the nurse. The nurse will complete the COVID assessment protocol and notify Metro Health. The employee will be sent home with directions on quarantine, return to work protocol and to follow up with their provider or Metro Health for a testing location.

13. What happens after a report of COVID symptoms or a positive case? 
The nurse will contact the individual (staff or student) to obtain a history, explore the level of exposure, conduct contact tracing as it relates to the school setting, provide quarantine instructions, and explain return to school/work criteria. The nurse will notify the San Antonio Metro-Health District (Metro Health) as required by law, share the history, contact tracing, and obtain directives on next steps. This could mean further quarantine of others that were exposed through close contact, possibly closing a classroom, and ordering the required cleaning and disinfection.

14. How will staff and students be notified about COVID positive cases?
“Close contact” is defined in the AHISD Back to School Health and Safety Guidelines. The school nurse or other trained and designated school personnel will follow the nurse protocol and consult Metro Health to determine close contact for other individuals and notification will happen during that process. If identified as having had close contact, and after consulting with Metro Health, they would be called by the campus nurses as soon as possible. Each individual who is determined to have had close contact with someone who has a lab-confirmed confirmed case of COVID-19 will be required to stay home according to the criteria outlined in the AHISD Back to School Health and Safety Guidelines even if they themselves are not tested. Please bear in mind that you may be able to provide key information to assist this process of contact tracing so your participation with the school nurse or designated staff member. Likewise, all employees have an obligation to maintain confidentiality during the process, especially if parents ask you about a particular case that you know about. 

Additionally, as required by TEA, consistent with school notification requirements for other communicable diseases, and consistent with legal confidentiality requirements, schools must notify all teachers, staff, and families of all students on a school campus if a lab-confirmed COVID-19 case is identified among students, teachers or staff who participate in any campus activities.

15. Are staff members allowed to take the temperature of students? 
Body temperature is one of many indicators checked when screening for COVID-19. The pre-screening protocol required of all students and staff before they come to school contains questions about all the indicators, in addition to body temperature, and it is the most effective method available to identify individuals who show symptoms. As a staff member, if you suspect a student is sick or showing symptoms of the virus, contact the school nurses immediately. The school nurse should be the one who directs the taking of a student’s temperature, if necessary.  Each campus has been provided multiple touchless thermometers, so the nurse may delegate that task to the appropriate administrator or staff who has been properly trained to do so.

16. Several symptoms of aggravated allergies are similar to the indicators asked on in COVID-19 pre-screening questions. How will the nurse or parent tell them apart?
The screening protocols that nurses use factor in the medical history of particular children and, in consultation with the child’s physician, information like aggravated allergies will be identified as part of the process so that a misidentification can be avoided. 

17. While screening is helpful, why are we not testing or asking families to test when there are so many asymptomatic and presymptomatic carriers? 
Public health care professionals, like the CDC, do not recommend universal testing when symptoms are not present for a variety of reasons. While a test might be negative one day, an individual may get the virus the day after the test, so the utility of testing expires quickly in terms of mitigating the spread of the virus. Instead, public health officials tell us that daily pre-screenings for symptoms are more effective in helping to control the spread of the virus. 

18. Employees are required to screen and report to the school if they have COVID-19 symptoms. Are parents required to do the same for the students? 
Yes, consistent with state requirements for other communicable diseases, and consistent with legal confidentiality requirements, parent must report to the school if their child has COVID-19 symptoms, is lab-confirmed with COVID-19, or if their child has had close contact with an individual who is lab-confirmed with COVID-19. 


19. How will substitute teachers operate when they are needed? What training and expectations will they receive?
The AHISD HR department has been in communication with our regular pool of substitute teachers, and we have confirmed normal levels of interest and numbers as during a regular school year, for both day to day substitute teachers as well as long term substitutes. In addition to their normal training, this year they will receive specific training about COVID-19, general health and hygiene measures, and about the specific AHISD Health Plan for returning to school. Like all employees, substitute teachers will complete pre-screening assessments before leaving their homes.

20. How will physical distancing be achieved during passing periods and transitions?
Campuses will work with their staff to establish physical distancing practices for their particular setting, and this information will be communicated to staff prior to the reporting of students to campus. 

21. How will arrival and dismissal (general entrance & egress) to campuses be managed to ensure both physical distance and normal safety/security precautions? 
Campuses will work with their staff to establish physical distancing practices for their particular setting, and this information will be communicated to staff prior to the reporting of students to campus.

22. How will physical distancing be achieved in the classroom and how many individuals will that result in for each classroom? 
Campuses will work with their staff to establish physical distancing practices for their particular setting, and this information will be communicated to staff prior to the reporting of students to campus.

23. What air filtration measures to health officials recommend to prevent the spread of COVID-19?  How is AHISD addressing those recommendations for air flow and filtration? (REVISED 8/26/20) 
According to the CDC, the risk of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 through ventilation systems has not been studied but is likely low (Source: CDC Frequently Asked Questions. Routine HVAC maintenance is recommended. Although it is never the first line of prevention, the CDC suggests to consider general ventilation adjustments in your workplace, such as increasing ventilation and increasing the amount of outdoor air used by the system. The district is implementing three strategies with the HVAC systems at each campus: (1) we are increasing the frequency in changing the air filters in each unit along with a more efficient filter; (2) we are moving to MERV13 filters; (3) we will be monitoring the ventilation to maximize the air flow throughout the buildings; (4) we will add UV lighting to all the systems which can control viruses, bacteria, and mold.

24. If the windows in our area are capable of opening, will staff be allowed to open our windows in an effort to increase ventilation? 
The air filtration systems in each building were designed to work in a closed environment in which windows are closed and in which doors to classrooms are closed. Open windows or classroom doors actually inhibit the air flow and filtration design, so it is best to keep them closed so that our ventilation safety measures can work optimally.  

25. How will AHISD use cleaning and disinfection to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus? (Revised 9/29/20) 
AHISD uses a multi-layered approach. Hand sanitizer wipes are a safe and effective product to use as needed by students and staff, too. Hand sanitizer solution and sanitizer wipes have been provided to each classroom. The chemicals and ingredients in the items have been vetted as safe for both staff and students (of all ages) to use, so we ask that employees not bring their own products from home for use in the classroom. The hand sanitizer wipes should be used to clean frequently touched surfaces throughout the day, we feel that the teacher is the best person to determine the need and frequency based upon use and activity within the classroom. Students and staff should use hand sanitizer upon entering and exiting the classroom, frequently or as needed throughout the period or day depending on what they are touching. Anyone that leaves the room during the class period and returns should hand sanitize or wash their hands upon return. These items are one layer of our overall cleaning & disinfecting plan.

We have also increased the number of custodial staff and have changed schedules to meet the demand for increased cleaning. Custodians clean the high touch common areas such as door knobs and push bars on doors, as well as restrooms, hourly, on campuses. Every evening the custodians use soap and water, as per CDC recommendations, to wipe down surfaces in classrooms. Twice a month the custodians are using a stronger disinfectant (Pine All) that is EPA approved, and they have been trained and use PPE when using these products. These products are not for use by other staff or students. Once a month, custodians fog campuses with an EPA approved product (scheduled once a month at each campus).This product continues to disinfect surface areas for 30 days. Fogger is not used in art classrooms where the product is not conducive to materials in those areas. Instead, liquid foam will be used to wipe down surfaces instead of fogging in those areas. Campus administrators will notify staff of when the twice monthly disinfectant and the monthly fogger are scheduled for their areas.

26. How will handwashing and sanitizing be addressed on campuses?
In the elementary setting incorporating this into the morning and midday routine will be an important lesson, especially if your classrooms have sinks. In the secondary setting hand sanitizer will be the most appropriate solution and will be located in hallways and each classroom.  A good rule is to hand sanitizer on arrival, whenever someone leaves the classroom and returns.

27. What processes will be used for H@H students who are not properly attending remote learning? 
As with traditional school, the individual classroom teacher and parent are the first line of communication regarding a student’s participation in class. After initial attempts by the teacher, through communication with the parents, to spur proper student engagement with H@H, the next step would be for the teacher to seek the assistance of the school counselor. After that, campus administrators should be involved by the counselor. Campus specific interventions will be followed to address situations of low H@H engagement. 

28. How will transitions between face-to-face and remote learning happen in the case of student illness, quarantine, etc.?
Students who need to miss more than two weeks of face-to-face instruction will transition to the Heights at Home program. This decision is a collaborative decision between the family, nurse, administrators and teachers. Students who need to quarantine for less than two weeks will remain in their regular face-to-face schedule with support from their regular teachers. Students will be provided with at-home learning tasks to complete during any transitional time. Students will be expected to engage in each class/subject every school day throughout the day. Younger students may need assistance accessing the virtual platforms from home. Students electing the Face-to-Face option who are absent due to health reasons will be allowed to return to the Face-to-Face option when health criteria are met. 

29. (Updated 9-3-20) The Bexar County Health Authority recommends that each district create a 7-person COVID-19 panel to provide guidance on operating procedures. Who is on the AHISD panel?
The AHISD Advisory Council met four times, twice in June, once in July, and once in August.

Members of the group included the following: Jennifer Aderholdt (elementary instruction; HECC parent); Valerie Alvarez (AHHS teacher; WE/AHJS parent); Keats Baggett (student; president of class of 2021); Bobby Contreras (community member; HECC/CE parent); Michelle Harrison (district safety committee; AHJS/AHHS parent); David Hornberger (Trustee; CE/AHJS parent); Carrie Johnston (AHJS/AHHS parent); Libby Perez (HECC teacher; HECC/WE/AHJS parent); Dr. Kristen Plastino-Arnold (physician; AHJS/AHHS parent); Cat Widder (AHISD Wellness Coordinator); Dr. Josh Tardy (pediatrician; WE parent); Dr. Troy Wilson (AHJS teacher); Frank Stanage (HR coordinator; AHJS parent); Kathi Martinez (AHISD Health Coordinator).

30. (Updated 9-10-20) What is the prevalence of active COVID-19 cases in the local community that encompasses AHISD? 
Active case rates are the number of active cases divided by the overall population to allow for equal comparisons between locations of differing population sizes. AHISD serves 3 zip code areas: 78212, 78216, and 78209. As of 8/14/20, the most recent data posted, all three zip codes are in the bottom half of local zip codes with active case rates with 78209, our largest zip code in the very bottom quartile.

(Source: Bexar County COVID-19 Data by Zip Code).
31. (Updated 11/18/20) Is there a specific number of positive cases that determines when an entire campus would close in-person instruction and go to remote learning?
In our conversations with San Antonio Metro Health (SAMH), it is clear that individual cases and small groups of close contact to quarantine from those cases will be the norm generally, and will not signal the need to close an entire campus. SAMH suggests that looking for cut points to close a campus is really not the way to look at it. Instead, if community spread is in the severe zone or if a campus rate is drastically higher than the community rate, we would consult with local health officials to determine whether or not an entire campus may need to move to remote learning. In those situations, though, we would have been communicating with SAMH well before we got there and we would have implemented multiple of our responses prior to that, too. At this point in the year, we have not traced any positive cases to a spread on any of our campuses for students or teachers.  All positive cases identified to date have been spread outside of school, a fact that promotes confidence in the many health and safety precautions that we've implemented in our schools. We have, however, experienced the need for staff members to be quarantined as an additional layer of precaution to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  This happens either when it is determined that they have been in close contact with a person with COVID -19, or when they are experiencing symptoms.  This results in an even greater need for additional reliable substitute teachers to help in classrooms where our teachers are at home teaching remotely into their classroom. If we continue to have a shortage of reliable and dependable substitute teachers, there may be times in the future that we need to send certain groups of students home into a remote platform for a period of time until our staffing is adequate to meet the needs of our face-to-face learners.
32. (Added 1/29/21)What COVID data does the state require districts to report to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS)?
AHISD posts a variety of information on the COVID Data webpage, which is available under the COVID-19 Re-Opening section. In particular, AHISD posts the number of active COVID cases among employees and students who attend in-person instruction as of the beginning of each week (Mondays in regular weeks; Tuesday, if there is a Monday holiday). Numbers are updated in the afternoon, no later than 5 pm.
All districts are required to report to DSHS the number of new active COVID cases that occurred for employees and students on campus from Monday-Sunday each week. This information is submitted to DSHS on Mondays. Our AHISD COVID Data webpage posts AHISD Case Counts,  the number of current cases as of Monday afternoons, not “new” cases as of Sunday that are reported to DSHS. Thus, if you had been tallying  “current” cases each week, your total may not necessarily match the “new” case count that DSHS posts. The number of current cases is most relevant to our decision making, so that is the number that we post.
33. (Added 1/29/21)  How does the reporting of the number of active COVID cases work over a holiday?
During a holiday break, numbers of current COVID cases that are posted on our website are not updated until school starts back up the following Monday. For a long break, like the Winter Break, an individual active COVID case could have occurred right after the holiday began and resolved before we returned, so it would not have counted as an active COVID case on the Monday we returned because it would no longer be a current case.

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