January 3, 2022 Email: Hays CISD COVID-19 Omicron Update

Posted by Tim Savoy on 1/3/2022

Dear Hays CISD Family,

Welcome back from what I hope was a relaxing break. When students return to class tomorrow, January 4, 2022, many of you will, no doubt, be thinking about the COVID-19 Omicron variant. During the break, the district has been monitoring developments on this latest COVID variant and has been preparing for contingencies.

The district continues to maintain an updated, central location webpage where you can find current safety plans, case-count dashboards, and other important COVID-related information at: https://www.hayscisd.net/coronavirus.  

Here are some highlights and recent changes as the district prepares to weather the Omicron variant surge:

What the District is Doing

  • During the break, the district began installing special air purifiers in every classroom and other strategic places at campuses. The installation will continue during the next several weeks until all campuses are completely covered. The air purifiers will not only aid in neutralizing viruses like COVID and the flu, they are also designed to help reduce other airborne contaminants, including pollen that causes allergies.
  • Because of the sharp rise in case counts with the Omicron variant, the district has suspended plans to relax visitor restrictions on campuses during the school day and other safety protocols we had hoped to modify in January.
  • The district will continue with the strictest COVID safety protocols allowed by state law and the Texas Education Agency, including regular and vigorous building cleaning and sanitization, strongly encouraging mask wearing, and recommending vaccines and booster shots for those who are eligible.
  • The district also continues to monitor cases and maintains a daily case-count dashboard so that you have the information you need to make decisions for you and your families.

What You Can Do 

  • Consider getting vaccines and booster shots for you and your children if eligible. This is the first time we are returning to school from a break where most students are eligible for a vaccine. (https://www.vaccines.gov)
  • Consider wearing masks
  • Stay home if you are symptomatic or believe you have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Remain vigilant with hand washing or hand sanitizing, and other basic flu-season hygiene practices.

New CDC Isolation Protocol

During the break the Centers for Disease Control changed its COVID-19 isolation protocols, which should help in reducing potential staffing shortages at Hays CISD campuses and allow us the best chance to keep operations from being disrupted. These changes are based on continuing research. The isolation period has been reduced from 10 days for people who test positive for COVID to five days – if they are asymptomatic, fever-free for 24 hours, and wear a mask for an additional five days while around others. People who meet the criteria to end isolation after five days, but who do not wish to wear a mask, or are unable to do so for the next five days, must remain home and away from school for the full 10-day isolation period.

Students Who Are Out Sick or Isolated

Students who are out of school with a positive COVID test result, or for close-contact isolation, no longer need to login daily for remote conferencing. This was something the state had required for attendance counting purposes. Since it is no longer necessary, and was burdensome on students and teachers; the district will no longer offer it. Instead, COVID-related absences will be managed as would any other absence for illness. Students can access assignments directly from their teachers to make up missing work. Secondary students can access their assignments in Schoology and elementary students will be able to get assignments in hard copy, or by other means at the teacher’s discretion.

Stronger Together

COVID-19 continues to have a substantial impact on all of us – from frustrations and disruptions of normal routines; to illnesses; and, sadly, for far too many – the loss of loved-ones. We have said throughout the pandemic that we are stronger together and we prove that in our school district community and family each and every day.

We should all prepare for a bit of an uncertain January. We’ll need to give each other continued grace, understanding, and flexibility as we see what unfolds with Omicron. Though the case count numbers are significant with the Omicron variant, we’re optimistic that the trend will hold that symptoms are generally less severe. And, we have more tools to work with and knowledge about the virus this time around.

Schools are among the safest places for students and staff during this pandemic. We’ll keep our focus on doing what we can do about the virus and what we need to do to keep students in class, where we know they have better academic results and social and emotional experiences.

Tim Savoy
Chief Communication Officer