The following FAQ’s are included in the COVID-19 District Response Plan released to the community
To ensure we are prepared for all situations, we have emergency procedures in place, including for infectious diseases. Per these procedures, we are working in partnership with the Department of Public Health, City of El Paso and Texas Education Agency (TEA) as the lead agencies in our COVID-19 response. We will continue to follow the guidance of public health experts to ensure we are implementing the highest level of precaution and prevention.
Prevention measures include providing resources, supplies, and time for all students to wash their hands when they arrive at school, before lunch, and after using the restroom. Additionally, custodial staff have been directed to prioritize cleaning common and high traffic areas multiple times a day. In a normal situation, these areas would be cleaned once a day. Prioritized cleaning includes bathrooms, the lunchroom, common spaces, door handles, emergency bar on doors, etc.
COVID-19 EPISD Response Scenarios
Scenario 1: Department of Public Health, City of El Paso follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations regarding a student or staff member who is not ill and does not have symptoms, but has had close contact with a person with lab-confirmed COVID-19. It will be recommended that person go home immediately and quarantine for 14 days. All events at that school will be canceled so that we can activate a specialized process to disinfect the school.
Scenario 2: In the event of a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19 in an EPISD staff member or student who has been in attendance at a school site, current district policies and procedures for school closings are already in place. We will consult with outside agencies such as CDC, Texas Education Agency (TEA) and local health department on school-closure recommendations or mandates. In the event of a closure, communication will be sent to impacted families and staff via our mass notification system. We will work with Department of Public Health, City of El Paso and other entities to determine the length of the school closure based on the unique circumstances of the case.
How will EPISD be keeping families, staff, and students informed regarding COVID-19?
EPISD has a dedicated webpage at episd.org with all the pertinent and updated information. Information on prevention has been distributed to all staff via email and website. Information also has been shared publicly through our social media channels and weekly digital newsletter. EPISD will continue to send emails to families and staff to provide the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19. The district website and campus sites are updated regularly. This is a rapidly evolving situation. The district continues to follow the guidance of the CDC, Department of Public Health, City of El Paso, and the TEA in our response to COVID-19, including decisions to close schools and whether students or staff should be quarantined. As soon as new information becomes available, we will let you know.
Why aren’t you proactively closing schools longer than the current two weeks?
El Paso ISD made the decision to close schools for an additional week after spring break. The spring break holiday is March 16-20. We will close for an additional week, March 23-27. At this time, schools will reopen on March 30. We are taking the week of March 23-27 as an Emergency Preparedness Week to further develop our procedures for academics and operations should we need to extend the closure or close schools at a later date. We also will take time for a deeper clean of all schools and buses. During the current closure, we will offer meals to students at select sites.
What are the procedures and instructions for students to wash their hands?
Hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the most effective way to contain the spread of illness and disease, including COVID-19. We have posted videos from the CDC on proper handwashing techniques at episd.org and on our social media channels. We are asking schools to prioritize student hand washing when students arrive at school, anytime they have used the restroom, and prior to lunch. These are always good habits and critical to the containment of the disease. Our school-based staff will be prioritizing hand washing, and custodial staff will keep soap fully stocked in bathrooms and classrooms to support these efforts. Staff will also reinforce good hygiene and remind students to not touch their face, nose, or mouth, sneeze into a tissue or elbow, and reduce physical hand contact (high fives, first bumps, etc.). The district will work with individual school leaders in implementation of district standards for hand washing.
How will EPISD be cleaning and disinfecting schools?
Custodial staff have been directed to prioritize cleaning common and high traffic areas multiple times a day. In a normal situation, these areas would be cleaned once a day. Prioritized cleaning includes bathrooms, the lunchroom, common spaces, door handles, emergency bar on doors, etc. All efforts will be made to keep students healthy and safe. Disinfecting systems will be utilized as well as the use of EPA registered, hospital-grade disinfectant on surfaces. All campuses will get a deeper cleaning during the spring break holiday March 16-20.
How is EPISD working to ensure buses are clean?
EPISD buses are disinfected daily, as is our regular practice. We are prioritizing additional cleanings as an enhanced precaution to provide safe travel to and from school. Disinfecting systems will be utilized as well as the use of EPA registered, hospital-grade disinfectant on bus surfaces.
When should a student or staff member stay home?
If students or staff experience fever of 100 degrees or higher, cough, and/or difficulty breathing, they should stay home from school and contact their health care provider immediately. If a student demonstrates these symptoms while at school, they will be immediately quarantined to another space in the school while continuing to be monitored by an adult, and a family member or emergency contact will be called to pick them up. We know this may cause anxiety and fear for our students and we will do our best to address any concerns. We are committed to ensuring students are supported with love, compassion, and care. If a staff person exhibits symptoms, they will be asked to leave school and call their healthcare provider immediately. We will monitor the staff person’s health conditions as appropriate. Students or staff presenting symptoms will need a doctor’s release in order to return to work or school. For more information, please contact your healthcare provider.
What are quarantine recommendations?
Following CDC recommendations, if a staff person or student who is not ill but may have been exposed and has been to a school site, the district will do the following:
- Remove the individual from the school location
- Contact the school community – staff, families, and partners
- Cancel all school events at the campus on day of EPISD notice
- Activate specialized and extensive cleaning of the school.
How will EPISD be handling attendance/excused absences regarding COVID-19?
If students do not come to school due to quarantine, or are sent home for showing symptoms of illness, their absence will be excused. If a school is closed due to suspected contamination, the District will not take attendance for that day. EPISD will be monitoring student and staff absences and make updates available if they become necessary. Perfect attendance guidelines for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year will be suspended for all students. Perfect attendance for 2019-2020 school year will be recognized through March 13, 2020.
If a student does need to stay home, how can they receive assignments?
3.12.2020 Page 3 of 3 Students who need to stay home due to illness will be excused. Teachers are being asked to prepare supplemental instructional materials for students who need to be out of the classroom and pre-plan weekly lessons in the event of a sudden prolonged absence. If an educator regularly uses Schoology, the EPISD learning management system, or other digital platform, lessons will be posted to that site for students in grades 6-12. If a student is unable to access Schoology from home, the school will work with the student and family in order to provide printed materials upon parent request. Elementary students will be provided access to MyOn digital library for supplemental reading and IStation for Reading and Math instruction and enrichment. Additional campus-based digital resources will be posted on campus websites. All students will be provided with core-content instructional packets via email to the parent’s email address on file. Please make sure you have an updated email address on file.
Will school travel be canceled?
EPISD has suspended all school-sponsored travel for all students and staff. Students and staff returning from currently impacted countries or regions are asked to self- quarantine for 14 days upon return (spring break). Currently, EPISD is not canceling local field trips. However, the District will make decisions regarding local gatherings as Department of Public Health, City of El Paso recommendations are received.
Living our Values – Resources to combat racism, bias, and discrimination
Our community values are tested in times like these. We must continue to be united and support each other as COVID-19 becomes more widespread. In schools, we will continue to demonstrate compassion and care as our greater community navigates this global health situation. We are aware of reports that some of our students have been targeted and discriminated against in connection to COVID-19. This is unacceptable and contrary to our values of racial equity and social justice. In EPISD, we are committed to welcoming, safe, and inclusive schools, and we do not tolerate hate speech or acts of discrimination. Help us prevent discrimination or stigmatization by sharing accurate information. COVID-19 infection is not connected to any race, ethnicity, or nationality. Misinformation about COVID-19 can create fear and hostility that harms people and makes it harder to keep everyone healthy.