After Gov. Greg Abbott told state lawmakers June 18 that students would be returning to Texas public schools in the fall, guidelines released by the Texas Education Agency June 23 fell in line with the governor's comments, mandating school districts offer some form of on-campus instruction during the 2020-21 school year.
According to the guidance released by the TEA, remote learning can still be an option for school districts, parents and teachers; it just cannot be the only option. Students will be able to record their attendance through either on-campus or virtual instruction, and parents will be allowed to request that their child be offered virtual instruction.
Draft guidance also lays out a list of “operational considerations” for school districts of practices that will be recommended but not required, including having hand sanitizer or hand washing stations at each entrance, cleaning more frequently, spacing out students at lunch and having all employees and visitors wear face masks. Districts are also encouraged to have students wear face masks or shields when developmentally appropriate.
Required actions for school districts, according to the TEA’s draft guidance, include closing off areas heavily used by individuals with lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, keeping individuals who exhibit symptoms of the virus home and posting a summary of district COVID-19 mitigation plans for the public one week prior to the start of campus activities.
“There will almost certainly be situations that necessitate temporary school closure due to positive COVID-19 cases in schools,” the TEA draft guidance reads. “Parents, educators and school administrators should be prepared for this in the event that it occurs, while actively working to prevent it through prevention and mitigation practices.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2% of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States were reported among children younger than 18. However, the TEA guidance notes that a child with a mild or asymptomatic case of the virus can still spread it to others, and the same is true for adults.
“Even if an infected person is only mildly ill, the people they spread it to may become seriously ill or even die, especially if that person is 65 or older with pre-existing health conditions that place them at higher risk,” the TEA's draft guidance reads.
TEA officials were scheduled to brief superintendents across the state on the guidance June 23, according to The Texas Tribune.