Gov. Abbott: Texas Education Agency to extend online learning option for school districts in 2020-21 school year

online
Gov. Greg Abbott said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath will announce the expanded online learning option in the coming days. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Gov. Greg Abbott said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath will announce the expanded online learning option in the coming days. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Editor's note: This post has been updated with additional information from the Texas Education Agency.

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.
By Taylor Girtman
After interning with Community Impact Newspaper in 2019, Taylor Girtman became a reporter for the Cedar Park and Leander edition in Feb. 2020. She covers the Cedar Park and Leander city councils.


MOST RECENT

Williamson County saw a big drop in daily reported coronavirus cases Aug. 5. (Screenshot courtesy Williamson County)
Williamson County sees big drop in daily reported coronavirus cases Aug. 5

The county did report three additional coronavirus-related deaths.

The Confederate Soldiers Monument stands on the south grounds of the Texas Capitol. A group of Democratic lawmakers have called for its removal, along with other statues and portraits honoring the Confederacy. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
State legislators seek removal of Confederate monuments at Texas Capitol

The decision may ultimately lie with Gov. Greg Abbott and the rest of the State Preservation Board, which last year authorized the removal of a plaque in the Capitol that said slavery was not an underlying cause of the Confederate rebellion.

budget
Cedar Park, Leander begin FY 2020-21 budget discussions

Leander and Cedar Park will begin discussions of their FY 2020-21 budgets on Aug. 5 and Aug. 6, respectively.

Here is the Williamson County COVID-19 case update for Aug. 4. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Williamson County confirms 98 new COVID-19 cases Aug. 4

The county reported no additional deaths.

The Commissioners Court also voted to set a maximum total tax rate of $0.458719 per $100 valuation, which is the current tax rate. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Williamson County commissioners accept $390.37 million recommended budget for FY 2020-21

The Commissioners Court also voted to set a maximum total tax rate of $0.458719 per $100 valuation, which is the current tax rate.

virtual-learning
Cedar Park preschool starts program to help elementary students learn virtually

The program will create a "school-like" classroom for virtual students to learn safely outside their homes.

In the last year, Whataburger launched a new, modern restaurant design and began offering curbside and delivery services for the first time amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the release. (Courtesy Elizabeth James for Whataburger)
Whataburger to celebrate 70th anniversary, unveil food truck, expand into 3 states

Nine more new Whataburger locations are planned by year's end, and 35 new restaurants are proposed for 2021.

The project will reverse the northbound I-35 entrance and exit ramps at the SH 45 intersection to alleviate traffic congestion, according to an Aug. 4 Texas Department of Transportation news release. (Courtesy Fotolia)
I-35 construction from Grand Avenue Parkway to SH 45 now underway

The project will reverse the northbound I-35 entrance and exit ramps at the SH 45 intersection to alleviate traffic congestion, according to TxDOT.

The U.S. Census Bureau will halt its counting operation a month earlier than expected. (Courtesy U.S. Census Bureau)
U.S. Census Bureau to halt counting operation a month earlier than expected

The self-response deadline has moved up to Sept. 30.

The total number of reported COVID-19 cases more than doubled in Williamson County in the month of July, according to Williamson County and Cities Health District data. (Graphic by Chance Flowers/Community Impact Newspaper)
See how COVID-19 impacted Williamson County in July

The total number of reported COVID-19 cases more than doubled in Williamson County in the month of July, according to Williamson County and Cities Health District data.