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Rob Barnwell

JEFFERSON — Jefferson ISD Superintendent Rob Barnwell said districts on Tuesday received updated guidelines and information from the Texas Education Agency about the start of the 2020-21 school year.

The updates caused slight changes to area districts’ reopen plans that many have made public in the past couple of weeks and Barnwell said before students actually return to school next month, it’s possible more updates or changes from the TEA are likely.

“We received changes from TEA (Tuesday) and these documents have been updated,” Barnwell said. “The changes include: A one day fever free criteria instead of a three day requirement in the three-step criteria related to re-entry.”

That guideline applied to students or staff who might be sent home with COVID-19 like symptoms or after having confirmed COVID-19. Previously TEA required the individual to be fever free without medication for 72 hours before returning to school but the new mandate reduced that time to 24 hours.

“Also, only one COVID-19 free test is required instead of two that were originally mandated,” Barnwell said.

That TEA changed mandate now says only one COVID-19 free test must be produced to school staff before a student or staff member can return to the campus after having symptoms or a confirmed case.

Previously, TEA required two COVID-19 free tests within 24 hours of each other to be shown before the individual could return to campus.

“Also, regarding the cleaning of areas in which a person with a positive test was in, it used to say ‘unless three days had passed since that person was in those areas,’ but now that has changed to seven days,” Barnwell said.

The TEA’s public health guidelines now show that schools must close off areas that are heavily used a COVID-19 confirmed student or staff member until the area can be disinfected unless more than seven days have passed since that individual was in those areas.

The mandate previously stated a three day limit, but Barnwell said Jefferson ISD intends to disinfect all areas even if the seven day limit has already passed since the confirmed person was in that space.

Barnwell said he’s sure, as the ongoing pandemic continues to change and the start date for many East Texas school districts creeps ever closer, the TEA will have a few more updates to its guidelines and requirements.

“I’m sure more changes will come on Thursday of this week,” he said.

To see Jefferson ISD’s full reopen plan for the 2020-21 school year, visit the district’s website at https://www.jeffersonisd.org/281123_2