SAN ANTONIO – Officials in Hidalgo County on Tuesday put a hold on in-person instruction for students on the same day that more than 30 COVID-19 deaths were announced for the county.
Dr. Ivan Melendez, the chief physician of the Hidalgo County Local Health Authority, has ordered that all school districts, both public and private, must keep campuses closed to students until after Sept. 27.
The schools can provide virtual or remote learning until then, the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court said in a release.
Teachers, administrators and staff may choose to work from campus, but they must adhere to social distancing guidelines and must wear face coverings.
“I commend Dr. Melendez for putting the safety of our students, teachers and district staff first,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez said. “As our numbers continue to rise, it is vital that we protect our children and our teachers. Until we can get a better handle on this virus we must continue to keep our distance from one another.”
On Tuesday alone, Hidalgo County recorded 31 additional deaths due to COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 183. A total of 8,593 people in the county have tested positive for the virus.
The county encompasses Edinburg, McAllen, Mission and Pharr.
Due to the alarming increase in COVID-10 cases, deaths and hospitalizations, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday said school districts will be provided more flexibility to hold off on in-person instruction.
Last week, public health guidance stated districts had up to three weeks at the beginning of the school year to provide virtual instruction, and after that, they would be required to provide five days of in-person learning.
Abbott on Tuesday said that three-week grace period would be extended.
“I think Mike Morath, the commissioner of education, is expected to announce a longer period of time for online learning at the beginning of the school year, up to the flexibility at the local level,” Abbott said to KTRK. “This is going to have to be a local-level decision, but there will be great latitude and flexibility provided at the local level.”
Hours before Abbott’s comments on Tuesday, The San Antonio Independent School District announced it will push back its start date to Aug. 17, pending board approval, and use remote learning for the first three weeks.