SAN ANTONIO – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said school districts have the flexibility they need to navigate reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
During an exclusive interview on KSAT News at Noon, the governor explained his clarification issued Friday that stated local health authorities could not preemptively keep schools closed as the spread of the virus continues to be rampant in Bexar County and other parts of the state.
Despite that, schools “have until November” to open up for in-person education, Abbott said.
“So the flexibility provided by the state of Texas is even far safer, far more flexible for schools than what was articulated by the local public health authority in the Bexar County region,” Abbott said Monday.
Abbott was referring to Metro Health’s directive that ordered Bexar County schools to provide only virtual instruction through Sept. 7. That order was upended by Attorney General Ken Paxton, who argued that public health authorities exceeded their authority in making that decision for all schools, public and private, in Bexar County. The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District is expected to issue an amended health directive later this week.
Under the Texas Education Agency’s plan, schools can teach remote for up to eight weeks while maintaining their funding. Beyond that, school districts would need to apply for a waiver that the agency would review on a case-by-case basis. The decisions on when to open would be made by school boards, he said.
“We need to work with the students to make sure that they can work with us on the flexibility that is needed to achieve that safety while also making sure they will not lose an entire school year to a lack of education, simply because of this pandemic,” Abbott said. “We must dominate this pandemic as opposed to allowing it to dominate us.”
Part of that flexibility will require schools to confirm that they have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to open up safely, and part of it requires addressing the digital divide that primarily affects poorer students who may not have reliable internet access, Abbott said.
Metro Health said the total case count in Bexar County is currently 41,082. The county is deemed one of the hotspots in Texas, according to a White House report.