Guidelines for Reopening Texas Schools Fall 2020

July 17, 2020

There are still many questions regarding what education in Texas public schools will look like this fall. I hope this post answers at least some of your questions. If you still have questions, please feel free to reach out to my office at (210) 829-5519.

Schools will open in-person/ on-campus or virtually/remotely

The goal is for schools to be open for on-campus instruction but significant flexibility is being afforded local districts. Districts are provided local discretion to utilize remote learning, without loss of funding, for up to four weeks. TEA will grant a waiver for up to an additional four weeks of remote learning, with full funding, upon a formal action request by the local district. Some districts may choose to use all or part of these periods for remote learning, while others may choose to start on-campus learning earlier. How learning is provided will be weighed against the public health and safety interests of students, teachers, staff, and the public.

Local schools have authority to set their calendars and determine safety protocols

Local school districts have the flexibility to choose the COVID-19 safety protocols they consider most appropriate for their schools but, to the extent there are mandatory requirements for public health, individuals in the schools must still follow them. To assist schools in developing their COVID- 19 safety protocols, the Texas Education Agency has published minimum health protocols for public education as a starting point, but know that a single standard would not work for all schools.

Remote learning tools and access

The Texas Education Agency is developing remote learning tools for local school districts to use, at their discretion, at no cost to them, to facilitate families who wish to continue at-home instruction for longer than the first four weeks of the 2020-2021 school year.

The TEA is also developing the best way to ensure students are able to access virtual education, including Internet access and learning devices. To support this, the state is allocating $200 million to provide Internet access and learning devices for the 2020-2021 school year to students who need them.

Schools or classes may temporarily transition to remote learning to disinfect should someone test positive

In the event that a particular school or classroom has a confirmed positive case of COVID- 19, the school or classroom may temporarily transition those students to virtual learning while the school or classroom undergoes a deep clean/disinfection.

The school or classroom may be closed for up to five days without a loss of funding so long as virtual learning is provided and attendance is taken during such closure. The decision whether to temporarily transition to virtual learning or make up any days is left to the discretion of the local district.

The state is providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to schools

The state is providing PPE, including masks, face shields, gloves, hand sanitizer, and thermometers, to all local school districts in
sufficient quantities to start the fall semester. The PPE is paid for by the state, not the local school district. These supplies are available for local school districts to distribute at no cost to teachers, staff, and students.

Families first leave applies to teachers and staff

Families First, which was included in federal legislation enacted in response to the COVID- 19 pandemic, provides certain paid sick leave options to employees who have COVID-19 and/or are caring for dependents with COVID-l9, among other circumstances. Any teacher or other staff member who qualifies for Families First may use it.

Local Health Authorities and emergency closure orders

Local health authorities have the ability, subject to oversight of the Texas Department of State Health Services, to order the closure of public schools for public health reasons, whether for COVID-19, influenza, or other infectious diseases. Any decision to do so should balance the health needs of all stakeholders. Beyond concerns regarding COVID-19, local health authorities must consider all the health needs of students, including mental health, physical well-being and safety, and access to nutrition.

Read more at the Texas Education Agency website.