We thought there wouldn’t be an update today?
So did we, but the governor likes to take action on Friday
What’s the very latest with regard to public schools opening
We reported on July 29 that the plan for re-opening public
schools changed four times in the last couple of weeks. It started with
Texas Education Agency (TEA) guidance, then some local health authorities and
school districts wanted something different, which the TEA agreed
with. But then the attorney general swooped in with something new.
This afternoon (July 31), several additional folks – Governor
Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick, Speaker Bonnen, Chairman Taylor, and Chairman
Huberty (the Texas Senate and House education committee chairs ) – decided to
weigh in. So far as we can tell, these state leaders’ and
legislators’ determination is that: (1) school boards control when school
opens; (2) school boards should consult with the local health authority to
make the decision; and (3) neither a city, a county, nor a local health
authority can issue blanket school closure orders. According to them,
the only authority at all lies with a local health authority, who can “during
the course of the school year, determine that a school building must be
closed in response to an outbreak.”
The folks mentioned above released the following joint
“Statement on School Re-Openings.” We bolded the most important
"The Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) guidance for opening
public schools in Texas for the 2020-21 school year remains the same as
announced two weeks ago. This guidance followed a letter issued jointly
by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker, and Chairs of the Senate and
House Education Committees.
The top priority is protecting the safety and health of
students, teachers, staff, and families. To achieve that goal, the TEA
provided local school boards the flexibility they need to open schools in
ways that ensure public safety while also providing the best education
options for students during this challenging school year.
The TEA guidance applies long-standing state law and Executive
Orders to conclude that the authority to make decisions
about when and how schools safely open rests with the
constitutionally and statutorily established local school boards.
The authority to decide when the school year will
begin lies with local school boards. They can choose dates in August,
September, or even later. But, whenever the local school board chooses to open,
the board must comply with the requirement to provide the necessary number of
days and hours of instruction for students.
The authority to decide how schools will safely open
this year, again, lies with local school boards. It can be with students in
schools, it can be through remote learning, or a combination of the two. In
making that decision, school boards have the ability to base their
decisions on advice and recommendations by local public health authorities
but are not bound by those recommendations.
As the TEA previously announced, school boards have up to a
4-week back to school transition period during which they can offer a solely
remote instructional setting if that is deemed needed for the health and
safety of students, teachers, staff and parents. After 4 weeks, the school
district can extend the transition period up to another 4 weeks with a vote
of the school board and receiving a waiver. If any school district believes
they need an extension beyond 8 weeks due to COVID-19 related issues, the TEA
will review that request on a case-by-case basis.
If at any time during the school year a COVID-19 case is
confirmed on a school campus, the school board has the ability to close the
campus for up to 5 days to sanitize the campus. Schools that close under this
scenario will continue to be funded for providing remote-only instruction.
Additionally, during the course of the school year, a local
public health authority may determine that a school building must be closed
in response to an outbreak. If that occurs, that school will continue
to receive funding for providing remote-only instruction during the period of
Local school boards also have the flexibility to achieve
health and safety goals by offering alternating on-campus/remote instruction
for high school students in order to reduce the number of students in campus
buildings at one time.
The TEA and the Attorney General correctly note that local
health authorities play an important role in school closure determinations during
the course of a school year if it is determined that a contamination has
occurred necessitating closure, but local health authorities do not have
the power to issue preemptive, blanket closures of schools weeks or months in
advance of when a school may open its doors to students. Pre-existing
Executive Orders have repeatedly made clear that local government operations,
such as public schools, are permitted to be open.
School boards established by the Texas legislature play a
unique and pivotal role in school decisions that must not be superseded by
other local authorities unless expressly allowed. It is clear that school
boards can and should work collaboratively with, but not be subject to the
advance directives of, local public health authorities, to ensure a safe and
effective learning environment for Texas students."
At present, the TEA has nothing about the above on its
Have a nice weekend.
Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus
TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.