Texas leaders expect public schools to re-open for in-person classes in August, but appear willing to leave many of the health and safety decisions for combating the ongoing coronavirus outbreak to local education officials, including whether to require students and faculty to wear face masks.
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath was expected to release formal safety guidelines Tuesday regarding the opening of public schools in the upcoming 2020-21 academic year, but backed off in the face of rising COVID-19 cases across the state.
A draft of the state guidelines, however, briefly was posted to the TEA’s website.
In it, TEA officials recommend — but do not require — that local school leaders implement several health and safety protocols to fight the spread of the coronavirus. They include placing desks at least six feet apart, requiring students and staff to wear face masks, taking the temperature of teachers and other staff members at the start of each day and setting aside times for hand washing, among others.
The guidance does outline several mandates: people with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 must remain home while sick and meet three conditions before returning to school; school leaders must notify local health officials and school community members of individuals who were on-campus and tested positive; educators must provide instruction on hygiene practices on the first day of school.
“While it is not possible to eliminate all risk of furthering the spread of COVID-19, the current science suggests there are many steps schools can take to reduce the risk to students, teachers, staff and their families significantly,” the draft states.
In a conference call Tuesday afternoon, when he laid out plans for how schools will receive funding, Morath said the preliminary health guidelines “are still draft, working documents.”
“It’s a rapidly changing public health situation, so we are unable to give final guidance (Tuesday) on on-campus instruction,” Morath said.
The agency did confirm that school funding will be based on student attendance, which will include students on campus as well as those who choose to stick with the kind of online instruction and distance learning that districts provided after Gov. Greg Abbott shut down all public schools in March.
Local school leaders across Texas are awaiting directives from the state as they craft extensive plans for the upcoming school year. They are deciding how to structure school days, implement safety protocols, assign staff responsibilities and provide instruction to students who fell behind in recent months.
SISD is coming up with three plans this week to consider: A) Opening the school with no restrictions; B) Brick and Click - Some students will be in class and some will do remote learning; C) Click Only or Remote Learning Only. SISD is expected to implement one of the plans and will have an announcement in the coming weeks. School is scheduled to start on August 12. SISD Superintendent Dr. Tommy Hunter said last week he doesn’t anticipate the drafted school calendar (dates) to change, with any of the plans listed above. SEE 2020-21 SISD CALENDAR ON THE SANGER ISD WEBSITE:
Education leaders across the state say there are innumerable academic, social and economic benefits to resuming in-person classes, particularly for children from lower-income families and working parents.
At the same time, education and public health officials worry about the potential for increasing the spread of the novel coronavirus. While children fall ill from COVID-19 at exceedingly low rates, health experts fear they could infect staff members or relatives.
Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria said state leaders should issue a mask mandate for all people on campus. The Texas Classroom Teachers Association argued the TEA “must provide clear, enforceable parameters” for reopening schools that are set by state health care professionals.