Texas school districts may be able to continue online learning for longer than the three-week period the Texas Education Agency provided in its guidelines, according to Gov. Greg Abbott.
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath will announce the expanded online learning option in the coming days, Abbott said in a July 14 interview with KTRK Houston.
According to TEA guidelines released July 7, school districts may “establish a phased-in return to on-campus instruction for up to the first three weeks of the school year, to ensure all appropriate health and safety procedures are fully in place.”
“This is going to have to be a local-level decision, but there will be great latitude and flexibility provided at the local level,” Abbott said during the interview.
TEA confirmed to The Texas Tribune on July 15 that Texas schools will be able to remain closed for in-person instruction in the fall without the risk of losing state funding.
Abbott said each school district has the authority to decide when they will open and if they will open with in-person or online learning. He said the strategy to open schools considers flexibility and the health and safety of students, teachers, staff and parents.
Some Central Texas school districts have advocated for changes in TEA guidelines to allow for greater online learning abilities.
Leander ISD, Pflugerville ISD and Round Rock ISD sent letters to state education and political leaders requesting their districts be allowed to suspend in-person instruction and begin the school year with 100% online instruction for all K-12 students.
Eanes ISD is advocating for 100% remote learning until Travis County's seven-day rolling hospitalization average dips below five—a threshold set by Austin Public Health officials.
Other Texas school districts have decided to start their 2020-21 school year online. Fort Bend ISD students will begin online with the goal of gradually adding in face-to-face instruction. Classes in Austin ISD will be held virtually for the first three weeks. With amended guidelines, these school districts could continue online learning for longer than three weeks.
Brian Perdue, Amy Rae Dadamo, Claire Shoop and Nicholas Cicale contributed to this report.