Earlier this week, the Texas Education Agency issued its requirements for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year. First on the list was that schools must reopen on schedule. In compliance with Governor Abbott’s executive order, schools located in counties with more than 20 active cases of COVID-19, must require students and staff to wear masks indoors. The only exception is that students under the age of 10 will not be required to wear a mask.
However, in an unexpected move on Wednesday, TEA announced that schools will continue to receive funding in counties where local public health officials have ordered schools to remain closed for health concerns. These schools will have the option of providing remote education only.
Photo: @Jmwiehl via Twenty20
As campuses open, schools will have options. While regular classroom instruction may be offered, stakeholders do not have to accept. TEA Commissioner, Mike Morath, maintains that in-person instruction is the best method for children during the pandemic, but he wants to respect stakeholders who are nervous about sending their children back to school.
In districts where local governments have ordered shut-downs, schools may opt to roll out an entire remote-learning plan and offer no in-person instruction until public health officials deem it safe. This is a change to the requirements TEA released earlier this week, initially mandating that schools have to offer some kind of in-person instruction in order to receive funding.
Per the TEA’s website, “TEA does not have the general authority to close schools for matters related to health. This authority lies with the local health authority, DSHS, and the Governor of Texas.”
TEA also announced that TELPAS and STAAR Testing would continue for the 2020-2021 year, regardless of what the school looks like. Although changes to earlier requirements for schools have been made, TEA still plans on maintaining a full testing calendar.
Mixed Emotions from Parents and Staff
Photo: @unfailing via Twenty20
Many parents have mixed emotions about how to proceed. Some parents are relieved at not having to send their children to school in-person, but they’re also concerned that the impact of remote learning may cause kids to regress. For parents who are returning to work on-site, they must find other methods of care for their children.
Staff members from various districts have expressed concerns as well. While many are breathing sighs of relief at not returning to work on-site, teachers are worried about how they will optimize the learning of their students from going remote for so long a time.
Parents and staff who have expressed concerns about members with underlying health conditions in these districts are relieved. With so much unknown about how COVID-19 moves, school employees with these conditions can work remotely for now. This comes in the wake of many workers who have taken early retirements due to health concerns. Parents to children with underlying conditions who shared a similar fear can rest easy for now. While these children need to learn, some parents were unsure about the safety of returning to school.