On July 9, 2020 TASA (Texas Association of School Administrators) released information and a timeline for the closing and possibly reopening Texas schools as a result of COVID-19.
On national television President Donald Trump has stated recently that our schools must reopen this fall. Many across the nation share his sentiments but many are opposed. This puts educators in a precarious situation since they are not sure what is going to happen since it changes almost from week to week.
The following is a timeline concerning Texas schools starting with the most recent date.
During his July 7 call with superintendents, Commissioner of Education Mike Morath announced the posting of comprehensive public health guidelines for students to return to school. The public health guidance takes effect immediately. It contains information on four sets of practices that minimize the likelihood of viral spread, including some that are requirements for all schools and others that are recommendations:
- First, requirements for parental and public notices
- Second, required practices to prevent the virus from entering the school (Screening protocols are required. Schools are required to comply with the governor’s executive order regarding the wearing of masks.)
- Third, required practices to respond to a lab-confirmed case in the school
- Fourth, recommended and required practices to reduce likely spread inside the school
The discussion during Commissioner of Education Mike Morath’s June 23 call with superintendents focused on guidance that will allow schools to get full funding for remote instruction. The commissioner described three options for fall attendance (two of which are new):
First, Synchronous Instruction (new) – Requires all participants to be present at the same time, virtually. Examples: Live interactive classes with students and teachers participating in real time, teacher-supported work time on video conference calls, scheduled and timed online tests.
Second, Asynchronous Instruction (new) – Does not require all participants to be virtually present at the same time. Examples: Self-paced online courses with intermittent teacher instruction, pre- assigned work with formative assessments on paper or in LMS, watching pre-recorded videos of instruction with guided support.
Third, Texas Virtual School Network (TXVSN) remains an option.
On July 2, Governor Abbott issued an Executive Order requiring all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases, with few exceptions. The governor also issued a proclamation giving mayors and county judges the ability to impose restrictions on some outdoor gatherings of over 10 people, and making it mandatory that, with certain exceptions, people cannot be in groups larger than 10 and must maintain 6 feet of social distancing from others.
On June 18, Governor Abbott told legislators during a conference call that Texas students will be returning to public schools in person this fall but school districts will not be required to mandate students wear masks or test them for COVID-19 symptoms, according an article in The Texas Tribune.
On May 18, Governor Abbott announced that school districts may hold summer school as early as June 1 with social distancing and other safety protocols.
On May 5, Governor Abbott announced new guidance from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) on graduation ceremonies and the creation of Surge Response Teams to combat any COVID-19 flare-ups in Texas.
On April 17, Governor Abbott issued several executive orders, including one that closes all Texas schools to in-person student attendance for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, as it “would be unsafe to allow students to gather.” He noted that teachers are permitted to visit their classrooms as needed to conduct online instruction, perform administrative tasks, or clean out their classrooms, but should follow social distancing guidelines. Abbott said to expect more information from Commissioner of Education Mike Morath about the closures and about conducting graduation ceremonies.