SAN ANTONIO – The Texas State Teachers Association is urging state officials to slow down the reopening of campuses, as back to school season is just around the corner.
With districts considering a wide array of options for the upcoming school year, the Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria says schools must reopen with caution to prevent another spike in COVID-19 cases.
In a statement, Candelaria said, “millions of lives are at stake, beginning with our children, our educators, their families and communities.”
He cited Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s swift reopenings of bars, restaurants and gyms as the cause of the uptick in cases and hospitalizations, and warned: “we can’t afford to let that happen in our schools.”
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath and state leaders have deemed it safe for schools to reopen in August. At the end of June, local school districts were still locking down calendars for the 2020-21 school year.
Candelaria has said no school campuses should reopen until the pandemic begins to subside.
The TSTA is also asking for safety protocols, including requiring face coverings for students and staff, to be put in place. Regular testing should be conducted and social distancing must be strictly enforced in classrooms, TSTA says.
According to guidelines released by TEA on Tuesday, masks will be required to be worn by students, teachers and staff. Social distancing in classrooms are being recommended in classrooms where its possible.
TEA officials are allowing parents to decide if their children can learn in the classroom or in a virtual setting.
Even as back to school season nears, it won’t seem the same as any other year. Faced with challenges, districts are considering smaller class sizes, campus mask policies and the expectation that a typical week might include some remote learning.
Some local school districts will have variations of intersessions and virtual learning. For example, the San Antonio Independent School District approved a revised 2020-21 school calendar that adds three weeks of intersession, and IDEA Public Schools will give the option for face-to-face instruction or an online-only format.
Abbott told KPRC, KSAT’s sister station in Houston, that classrooms are “the best setting” for children. He added that if there’s an outbreak, schools have the flexibility “to provide enhanced online distanced learning.”
The authority to close schools due to health matters, according to the Texas Education Agency, lies with local health officials, the Texas Department of State Health Services and Abbott.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.