October 20, 2014
TO THE ADMINISTRATOR ADDRESSED:
Guidance on Certain Education Questions Related to Ebola Virus in Texas
In late September, the first case of the
Ebola virus diagnosed in the United States was confirmed in Dallas. The Dallas
Independent School District was the first to deal with issues related to
potential exposure to students and/or staff. I have remained in contact with
DISD Superintendent Mike Miles to learn the issues the district faced and how
TEA could assist.
Since that time, additional school districts
across our state have been faced with potential exposure to students and/or
staff. As these instances have occurred, I have personally contacted
superintendents to get a better sense of the community concerns and how each
district is working to address them.
Superintendents across Texas have contacted
TEA staff and me directly to seek guidance on specific questions related to
this health and safety issue. At the same time, our Education Service Centers
have relayed questions and concerns expressed to them related to issues
specific to the various regions.
I am aware there are a multitude of questions
specific to each community and district. However, today I hope to provide some
guidance on the three most common issues that have been brought to my
- School Closures
The Department of
State Health Services has released a statement (attached) indicating that no
public health reason exists at this time to close schools, cancel classes or
cancel extracurricular activities. With
this in mind, the decision to close a specific campus within your district due
to potential exposure to the Ebola virus remains a local decision. Each
superintendent is in the best position to take into account the health
information provided to you regarding potential risks, while also addressing
the level of concern within your community. In my discussions with
superintendents, it is a decision that has been made after careful
consideration of multiple factors. [Please note that districts must still apply
for a Missed Instructional Day waiver for each campus that is closed.]
- Attendance Waivers
regarding attendance waivers for health and/or safety reasons remain in effect.
Districts seeking such a waiver should specifically note the reason for the
waiver request. Although the current threshold to secure an attendance waiver
has not been changed, I have instructed TEA staff to consider the current
situation in our state and work with school districts during this time.
- Instruction Options for Quarantined
Almost all of our
education service centers provide a variety of potential options to address the
educational needs of students who are being monitored for potential Ebola
exposure and cannot attend class during the isolation period. I have attached a
copy of those potential options identified by our ESCs. During this time, TEA
will expedite any request from a district for a waiver to provide remote instruction by remote conferencing to
students who are staying home at the
direction of a public health official due to monitoring of the
Ebola virus. For additional remote conferencing waiver information, see Sections
12.3.1 and 12.3.2 of the Student Attendance Accounting Handbook. All
other requests relating to extended student absences as a result of health
and/or safety concerns will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
As a member of the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response, I understand there
are still questions specific to each community and school district. I am
working with state health officials on answers to those questions related to
student health monitoring, communication to parents and the community, as well
as campus-level precautions once potential exposure has been identified. I will
address these types of issues in additional updates.
I thank each of you for working
to keep me, TEA staff, and our ESCs advised during this time. More importantly,
thank you for keeping your community informed on your precautions and decisions.
The many issues you have already identified are important components to
assuring our state is prepared and remains prepared in the future.
Commissioner of Education
Texas Department of Health Services: Statement Regarding Texas Schools and Ebola Risk
General Information about Homebound Students
TMA Facts About Ebola