Texas school districts may be forced to make their own decisions about 2020-21 school year

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- While Texas school districts wait for guidance from Texas Education Agency (TEA), documents on its website reveal decisions for the 2020-21 school year could be left up to each district.

Jennifer Swallen is a mother of two Houston ISD students. Swallen said she is hopeful that her children will return to in-person learning in the fall, but understands why other parents may not feel the same way.

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"I think we just need to be patient as parents," Swallen said. "I think we're all in uncharted territories, and I think we need to just show everyone grace, whether it's an administrator or neighbor, everybody has a different circumstance."

HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan told ABC13 last week that the district is still considering three options when it comes to students returning in the fall.

Several school districts, including Fort Bend ISD, Katy ISD and Pearland ISD are leaning towards a hybrid model, but they are also waiting on guidance from the TEA.

Swallen said she believes it's not a one-size-fits-all decision.

"It's going to be based on each family," Swallen said. "Some families will need to do distance learning and some families can return. For us, we'd like to return, and we're looking forward to it. Based on the communication so far, I feel like they will have both options for both families and teachers."

SEE MORE: Should you plan to send your child back to school in the fall?

Governor Greg Abbott announced earlier this month that students will return to in-person instruction in the fall and there will not be a requirement for face coverings. The TEA postponed its announcement last week and has yet to announce when guidance for school districts will be released.

However, documents released on its website show that PPE is being distributed to school districts across the state, and notes the districts can decide whether to use it.

Zeph Capo, president of Houston Federation of Teachers, said he's calling on school districts to start making decisions that best match its districts needs, instead of waiting on the TEA.

"What we hope is that TEA will be straightforward with people and will allow local school districts to decide how they deliver instructions, and not play games with funding," Capo said. "Let's let local school districts make the best decision. We believe in local control in the state of Texas, and this is one of those times where we need to put that in place."

SEE ALSO: Fort Bend ISD focusing on what school will look like in fall

Capo said he also was not surprised when he heard the news that STAAR testing will continue in the upcoming school year, but he said dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and making sure it's safe to return to the building should be first priority.

"To bring people back when we have the level of COVID cases increasing the way they are in Texas, and in particular the greater Houston area, it would be potentially a monumental mistake that could harm lives," Capo said. "We don't think that is in the best interest of our educators, nor in the best interest of their students."

Teachers are on a deadline, too. They have 45 days before the start of the school year to decide whether to stay with that district or leave without penalty. That deadline is Tuesday, June 30 for Fort Bend ISD and other school districts.

RELATED: Students returning to school in the fall may need to be re-evaluated, union president says

Capo said he sent a letter to the governor last week asking to waive the penalty for teachers to have the time to wait on their school district to devise a plan.

"Directly to the governor, please, please waive the timeline for our teachers so we're not keeping people on a pressure cooker," Capo said.

It may be until mid-July before an official announcement is made from school districts or the TEA.

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