Parents will have more back-to-school choices, TEA says

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Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Parents will have more back-to-school choices, TEA says
HOW WILL IT WORK? Will parents really have more options? Watch the video above for a full break down.

AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) -- The Texas Education Agency has released its guidelines for students' return to school.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said despite what he described as a "challenging" upcoming budget year, parents will have more choices than normal this year as they decide which school setting is best for their children, which includes the following:

  • Daily on-campus learning will be available to all parents who would like their students to learn in school each day.
  • In addition, all parents will have the option to choose remote learning for their children, initially, or at any point as the year progresses.
  • Parents who choose remote instruction for their students may be asked to commit to remote instruction for a full grading period (e.g. six or nine weeks), but will not have to make that commitment more than two weeks in advance, so they can make a decision based on the latest public health information.
  • Health and safety procedures will be in place to support student and teacher safety.
  • Some health procedures are mandated for every school in the state. For example, all students, teachers, staff, and visitors coming to campus must be screened before being allowed on campus. To align with Gov. Greg Abbott's most recent executive order, and assuming that order is still in place, masks will be required while in school buildings, with certain exceptions made, as noted in the order. Schools will also be required to follow any forthcoming executive orders issued by the governor.
  • Additional health procedures are recommended for every school that can reasonably implement those procedures.
  • Districts have the option to establish a phased-in return to on-campus instruction for up to the first three weeks of the school year, to ensure all appropriate health and safety procedures are fully in place.

WATCH: ABC13's 'COVID-19 and Our Schools' town hall

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED: In the video above, ABC13 took YOUR questions to school leaders and health experts on how districts are preparing amid COVID-19, and how they intend to address concerns about student access to the internet, computers and other technology.

TEA is also providing school systems with the following:

  • Reimbursement for extra COVID-19-related expenses incurred during the 2019-20 school year.
  • Tens of millions of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies provided to school systems at no cost to Texas schools.
  • Free online, TEKS-aligned learning tools to deliver remote instruction.
  • Teacher training provided at no cost to the school system.
  • Statewide efforts to help bridge the digital divide for students at home, along with other ongoing support.

After the TEA guidelines were released, HISD, the state's largest school district, released the following statement:

"HISD has received the Texas Education Agency's guidelines for students to return to school for the 2020-2021 school year safely. The district is assessing these guidelines and will announce its reopening plans on July 15."

Meanwhile, Fort Bend ISD issued the following statement:

"Fort Bend ISD continues to make plans for the reopening of our schools, and remains committed to implementing plans that protect our staff and students while providing a rigorous instructional program both face-to-face and online. Today's announcement from the TEA is disappointing because the guidance, as written, does not provide local school districts with the flexibility to make decisions based on local data or community and staff values and expectations.

Specifically, the announcement that "on-campus instruction must be offered for all grades served by the campus every day for every student whose parents want them to access on-campus instruction" does not allow local school officials the ability to effectively address teacher well-being or space limitations due to necessary social distancing. In fact, the guidelines, as written, provide for a reduction in funding for school districts that might not be able to provide on-campus instruction every day or if students must be on a part-time schedule to limit the number students in a classroom at one time.

While it is our intent to provide daily face-to-face classroom learning for any student selecting that option, we cannot commit to such a plan until we survey teachers to determine their willingness and ability to return to face-to-face instruction. We will also pre-register all students later in July to obtain the number of students desiring either face-to-face or online learning. This information will inform decisions about how classrooms will be used at each school.

"Fort Bend ISD is considering many safeguards and precautions to mitigate the spread of illness within our schools," said Fort Bend ISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Charles Dupre. "We remain committed to following TEA guidance and the strategic plan set forth by our local Board of Trustees to provide an educational system that allows all students to reach their full potential - in any circumstance. Our teachers and campus staff are at the heart of everything we do, and we will not ask them to bear the risk and weight of any re-opening plan."

If your student attends a school in Klein ISD, here's what the district told ABC13.

"Klein ISD Families & Employees: In a call with the Commissioner of Education late this afternoon, superintendents received long-awaited public health guidance from the Texas Education Agency regarding protocols for reopening schools.

The district will review this new information carefully, make any necessary updates to our Roadmap to Reopening Klein ISD, and communicate the reopening plans by noon on Friday, July 10, 2020."

In Pasadena, the district published a video on its YouTube channel outlining its plan

Conroe administrators are weighing their options and plan to make an announcement Monday about the district's future.

Conroe ISD administrators are reviewing the additional guidance provided by the Texas Education Agency yesterday. We look forward to being able to share details with our families about the 2020-2021 school year by Monday, July 13. Dr. Null will also provide a live update Monday evening at 6 PM on the District's YouTube Channel. This link will be shared on all of our social media platforms and sent to our families through our mass communication system.

New Caney ISD officials released at statement to ABC13 saying the back-to-school plan for students there will be released before August.

"New Caney ISD is currently reviewing the new guidelines issued by TEA for students and staff going back to school this fall. We are incorporating those guidelines into our plans for on-site learning as well as distance learning opportunities. We will be releasing our back-to-school plan by the end of the month."

At Spring ISD, the district said they've already released its plan, which includes two different options for families.

"Spring ISD had already released its Back-to-School plan with options for families - a hybrid model and a remote model. We are now working to develop another option that will comply with the TEA requirements that daily on-campus learning be offered for all students in all grades.

We will be presenting our families with this additional option soon. Our goal is to have all the details of our Back-to-School plan available by the week of July 20."

ABC13 is reaching out to various other school districts for their response. Check back for updates.