How coronavirus guidelines have changed for Texas school districts since May

Since May 22, various authorities have released at least 11 major coronavirus guidelines related to school operations. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Since May 22, various authorities have released at least 11 major coronavirus guidelines related to school operations. (Courtesy Fotolia)

Since May 22, various authorities have released at least 11 major coronavirus guidelines related to school operations. (Courtesy Fotolia)

Since May 22, various authorities—from local health officials to Gov. Greg Abbott—have released at least 11 major coronavirus guidelines related to school operations.

Eanes ISD General Counsel Alyson Collins estimated there have been more than 100 minor changes regarding school districts’ day-to-day operations.

As districts cope with the evolving nature of the coronavirus, Collins presented a legal timeline during an Aug. 6 EISD broadcast; it highlighted guidance from Travis County, the Texas Education Agency and other governing bodies.

May 22: University Interscholastic League permits summer activities

The University Interscholastic League issued a statement that permitted districts to begin limited summer activities as early as June 8. Strength training, conditioning and bad practice could take place following safety protocols.


June 18: Abbott says students will return to campuses in the fall

Gov. Greg Abbott affirmed in a statement to Texas lawmakers that students and staff will return to on-campus instruction for the 2020-21 school year. In conjunction with Abbott’s statement, Frank Ward, a spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency, said districts will not be required to mandate students to wear masks.

June 23: TEA releases guidance for the 2020-21 school year

TEA released guidance stating that districts must offer some form of on-campus instruction for the 2020-21 school year. The statement confirmed districts may provide a remote learning option for parents as long as it is not the sole option.

June 26: Abbott allows for graduation ceremonies under certain health guidelines

Abbott issued an executive order which stated public schools may resume summer operations with required health protocols in place. This order, according to Collins, permitted districts to conduct graduation ceremonies consistent with health guidelines issued by TEA.

July 1: UIL advocates for summer workout suspension

In response to new coronavirus cases and the looming July 4 holiday, UIL issued a statement recommending a temporary suspension of all summer practices, rehearsals and instruction from July 3-12.

July 7: TEA says districts must take daily on-campus attendance

TEA issued guidelines stating that ISDs must keep attendance to receive state funding. Under TEA’s guidance, districts could also close due to confirmed coronavirus cases or new orders from governing authorities.

July 14: Travis County suspends in-person learning until Sept. 8

The city of Austin and Travis County issued an order July 14 suspending in-person instruction, extracurricular activities and sports until Sept. 8.

July 17: TEA issues revised guidelines for the 2020-21 school year

TEA revised its initial guidance by allowing districts to utilize a transitional period, which, if approved by the board of trustees, could extend remote learning for up to eight weeks.

July 21: UIL adjusts 2020-21 calendar

UIL issued a modified 2020-21 calendar with a series of start dates depending on conference and activity. The league also released updated coronavirus mitigation guidelines to take effect Aug. 1.

July 28: Texas Attorney General Paxton weighs in on Travis County’s order

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a letter in response to inquiries from Stephenville Mayor Doug Svien. Paxton’s interpretation of the law stated that local health authorities may not issue sweeping orders closing schools for the sole purpose of preventing future coronavirus outbreaks. Rather, Paxton said, local health authorities’ power is limited to addressing specific outbreaks.

July 28: TEA follows Paxton's guidance

TEA issued guidance to reference Paxton’s letter, stating it will not allow districts to close in-person instruction based solely on local health authority orders. However, according to Collins, TEA confirmed it will continue to fund up to eight weeks of remote-only instruction.

July 30: TEA outlines districts' flexibility amid the pandemic

TEA attempted to clarify its July 28 guidance by outlining the flexibility allowed to districts during the pandemic. Under this guidance, districts have the authority to make changes to its instructional calendar and offer 100% remote learning for up to eight weeks, among other acts, without the risk of jeopardizing state funding. However, districts cannot offer remote learning alone beyond the given eight-week period.
By Amy Rae Dadamo
Amy Rae Dadamo is the reporter for Lake Travis-Westlake, where her work focuses on city government and education. Originally from New Jersey, Amy Rae relocated to Austin after graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey in May 2019.