Texas Education Agency: Schools can teach online-only for up to 8 weeks at beginning of year

School districts have raised concerns of COVID-19 transmission in classrooms

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) (Charlie Neibergall, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – Due to the rise in COVID-19 cases across the state and concerns voiced by school districts across the state, the Texas Education Agency issued updated guidance on Friday that allows schools more time at the beginning of the school year for online-only instruction.

School districts will now be able to temporarily limit in-person classes for the first four weeks of school, an extension of one week compared to past guidance. After that, school instruction can remain remote for an additional four weeks, if needed, with a board-approved waiver request to the agency.

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“We at TEA have spent the last several months talking to medical experts around the state and around the country, as well as examining how schools are being reopened around the globe,” TEA Commissioner Mike Morath said in a recorded statement Friday. “And we’ve crafted a framework so that schools can open safely, subject to a variety of adjustments to keep our staff and our students safe.”

Schools will still have to provide in-person instruction to students who have don’t have access to internet or adequate resources to learn from home, the agency said.

Previously, school districts were only allowed a three-week online-only transition period. Several San Antonio school districts had already made the decision to start the year online, including San Antonio Independent School District, North East Independent School District and Northside Independent School District.

Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina said teachers are seeking more assurances from the state.

“We demand that Gov. Abbott issue a statewide order that all school buildings remain closed and all instruction be provided remotely until the pandemic has clearly begun to subside and it is safe to reopen school buildings under strict safety standards,” Molina said. “The state and school districts must work with educators and health experts to decide when that time is here for each school district. Meanwhile, districts must receive full state funding.”

Under the guidance, schools are required to comply with the governor’s mask order.

What happens in the event of a confirmed COVID-19 infection?

Anyone who is exhibiting symptoms of the virus or has a lab-confirmed test must stay home throughout the infection period and cannot return until symptoms have improved and at least three days have passed since recovery, according to the guidance.

Upon confirmation of the infection, the school must notify its local health department, close off areas that are heavily used by the infected individual and schools must notify “all teachers, staff, and families of all students” in the school if the person has a lab-confirmed case.

Read the full guidance below:

Find more information in our Back to School section.

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