TEA includes local option for online-only start to school year

Local News

In this March 6, 2020, photo, a classroom is seen vacant through a window at Saint Raphael Academy in Pawtucket, R.I., as the school remains closed following a confirmed case of the coronavirus. As a growing number of schools around the country close their doors because of the new coronavirus, they are confronted with the dilemma of whether to move classes online and run the risk of leaving behind the many students who don’t have internet or computers at home, or parents with flexible work schedule. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

TEA Commissioner Mike Morath

AUSTIN, Texas (Big 2/Fox 24) – The Texas Education Agency has added additional guidance for local school districts that are making plans for the coming school year.

According to a release Friday, the TEA has amended their guidance to include an online-only start option for local districts.

“In response to the varying public health realities of each Texas community, these changes give the needed flexibility for schools to effectively provide a smooth transition for students, teachers, and staff so that they will experience the safest and least disruptive mode of learning during the beginning of the school year,” a release from the TEA reads.

School districts in the Permian Basin have discussed the difficulty in planning out the year amid the Coronavirus pandemic. Difficulties were compounded as case numbers and hospitalizations increased significantly in recent weeks.

ECISD Superintendent Dr. Scott Muri says plans are changing by the day as the medical data and guidance from the state evolves.

The new guidance will allow school districts to temporarily limit access to on-campus instruction for the first four weeks of the academic year.

Once that time frame has ended, districts could continue with limited access, if needed, with a board-approved waiver request to the TEA.

Additionally, the guidance offers advice for districts to ensure staff stays safe:

“This could include allowing those staff, including teachers, who may fulfill their work duties remotely to do so. It could include modification of schedules to ensure, where feasible, that staff members, including teachers, interact with smaller and/or more consistent cohorts of individuals to further mitigate risk. In addition, teachers and staff who are in high risk categories may be entitled to paid leave under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) in addition to leave already accrued.”

TEXAS EDUCATION AGENCY

Schools that offer remote learning must still offer in-person learning for any students without internet access at home.

To aid with access, Gov. Greg Abbott announced $200 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding to the TEA for the purchase of eLearning devices and home internet solutions.

With that funding, the TEA will be able to purchase and distribute devices, hotspots, routers and more based on specific needs identified by local school districts.

“As school districts delay the start of in-person instruction for the 2020-2021 school year due to COVID-19, it is essential that we work to provide Texas students with the devices they need to connect and communicate online for classroom instruction,” Gov. Abbott said in a statement.


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