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County health authority orders restrictions on school re-openings

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On Tuesday evening, Dr. Desmar Walkes, the health authority for Bastrop County, and County Judge Paul Pape released an order that outlines guidelines and restrictions for county schools. The order lays out a four-stage reopening plan and disallows in-person classes before September 7.

Read the full order below:

Whereas, the Texas Education Agency (“TEA”) does not have general authority to close schools due to public health, and TEA acknowledges that such authority lies with the local disaster and health authorities, the Department of State Health Services, and the Governor; and

Whereas, data indicates that schools opening for on-campus instruction as currently scheduled will result in multiple students, teachers, and staff being exposed to COVID-19 virus by asymptomatic persons,

Therefore, due to the current evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic in Bastrop County, and pursuant to Texas Health & Safety Code 81.082 and 81.084, Dr. Desmar Walkes and Paul Pape hereby issue this Order imposing specified controls and restrictions on all public institutions offering instructions to students in one or more grades, pre-kindergarten through grade 12 in Bastrop County, as well as any independent school district within Bastrop County (hereinafter “school systems”). Effective as of the date of this Order, School systems should plan to implement in-person instruction in Stages. Moving to the next Stage will be based on data showing a decrease in the ratio of positive cases to those tested in Bastrop County as reported as the Department of State Health Services on the following dates (two weeks ahead of Stage change):

  • Aug 4 - beginning metric date
  • Aug 25 - 2nd metric date
  • Sep 15 - 3rd metric date
  • Oct 6 - 4th metric date
  • Ongoing each three weeks as needed

Stage One Restrictions until September 7, 2020: No in-person classes. Students and teachers engage in unlimited virtual classes, activities, and events.

Stage Two Restrictions (up to 50% of on-campus student capacity): Smaller in-person classes, activities, and events. Groups of students stay together and with the same teacher throughout/across school days when possible and groups do not mix. Students remain at least 6 feet apart, whenever possible, and do not share objects (e.g., hybrid virtual and in-person class structures, or staggered/rotated scheduling to accommodate smaller class sizes). In person activities are permitted.

Stage Three Restrictions (75% of on-campus student capacity): Larger in-person classes, activities, and events. Groups of students stay together and with the same teacher throughout/across school days when possible and groups do not mix. Students remain at least 6 feet apart whenever possible and do not share objects (e.g., hybrid virtual and in-person class structures, or staggered/rotated scheduling to accommodate smaller class sizes).

Stage Four Restrictions (100% of on-campus student capacity): Full sized in-person classes, activities, and events. Students are not spaced apart, may share classroom materials or supplies, and may mix between classes and activities. Health and safety practices encouraged.

This order includes appropriate control measures based on the higher risk for spread of COVID-19 in schools due to the necessity of large groups gathering in indoor spaces and the difficulty for children to follow social distancing and hygiene guidelines. After consultation with appropriate stakeholders, additional direction and guidance for re-opening schools for on-campus instruction may be issued prior to September 7, 2020.

This order is issued under authority of the Bastrop county Local Health Authority, on this the 21st day of July 2020.

Desmar Walkes, MD, Bastrop County Local Health Authority

Paul Pape, County Judge and Director of Emergency Management