HOUSTON - The Texas Education Agency has released its new guidelines for students to return for in-person classes as early as next month. All public school districts must reopen in order to receive state funding.
During a video message, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath offered his empathy to families who’ve transitioned from being parents to teachers during the pandemic.
"Coronavirus is a big disruption in the lives of every Texan – parents especially," Morath said.
In an effort to provide parents with more choices next school year, the TEA says in-person classes will resume with new safety guidelines like wearing a mask, but families will also have the option of learning from home, if they prefer.
Parents can choose to go remote at any point during the school year, although they may have to give a two-week notice and commit to remote-instruction for a full grading period, which is anywhere from six to nine weeks.
The TEA’s announcement for all public schools to reopen next month aligns with President Trump’s push for all governors and states nationwide to reopen campuses in the fall. Despite surging COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in several states including Texas, the President says keeping schools closed do more harm than good.
"We hope that most schools are going to be open. We don't want people to make political statements or do it for political reasons. They think it's going to be good for them politically, so they keep schools closed. No way. So we're very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools to get them open. And it's very important. It's very important for our country. It's very important for the well-being of the student and the parents. So we're going to be putting a lot of pressure on open your schools in the fall," Trump said.
Andy Dewey is the Executive Vice President of the Houston Federation of Teachers and a former educator of 37 years. Dewey says the new guidance is unfair to teachers and disproportionately affects low-income or working families that can’t afford to stay home with their kids.
"It's horribly unfair to all school employees. This is literally their not only their livelihoods, but potentially it's their life. How many families of school employees are going to be put at risk. They shouldn't even think about going back in person, unless they have a minimum of 14 days of decrease Covid-19 cases. They should be focusing their efforts on how to do remote learning better and not how to bring kids back in relative safety," Dewey said.
The TEA does have exceptions for schools to reopen for in-person learning like if Gov. Abbott orders schools to close, or if an individual campus has a confirmed case of COVID-19 and has to temporarily close.
The CDC also released its guidance on the safe and effective reopening of schools in the fall. The CDC says schedules should be staggered and meals should be eaten in classrooms instead of the cafeteria. The CDC also recommends disinfecting desks and surfaces frequently.