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TEA announces guidelines for new school year

Published: Jul. 7, 2020 at 3:52 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 8, 2020 at 9:43 AM CDT
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AUSTIN, Texas (KWTX) - The Texas Education Agency released guidelines Tuesday for a return to school that give parents some options as the state experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The guidance, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said, “will provide flexibility both to parents and districts to make decisions based on the ever-changing conditions of this public health crisis.”

“The state is and remains committed to providing a high-quality education to all Texas students, while ensuring the health and safety of students, teachers, staff and families.”

Central Texas school officials have been waiting for the TEA to provide guidance on the upcoming school year, which is fast approaching.

Schools in the Killeen ISD, for example, are scheduled to open on Aug. 17, according to the district’s 2020-2021 calendar.

Under the guidelines, on-campus instruction will be available to parents who prefer their children to learn in school, but parents may also opt for remote learning, although they must agree to commit to it for a full grading period.

Students, teachers, staff and visitors must be screened before they’re allowed on campus and face coverings may be required, consistent with the governor’s order now in effect that requires face masks in counties with 20 or more active COVID-19 cases.

The governor’s current order exempts children younger than 10.

Districts have the option of establishing a phased return to campus instruction over a period as long as three weeks at the start of the school year.

School districts are required to post a summary of their COVID-19 mitigation plans at least a week before the start of on-campus activities and instruction.

In classrooms where space permits, desks must be positioned at least six feet apart and in classrooms where children are regularly within six feet of each other, schools must plan for more frequent hand washing or sanitizing and should consider increased airflow from outside the building.

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In response to the guidelines, Texas American Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo said the TEA’s leadership “is acting intentionally and recklessly with gross negligence by issuing guidance that does not take into account the fact that much of Texas is experiencing substantial community spread.”

“Much of the guidance released by TEA today appears to ignore the reality of the record number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations across the state. We are actually one of the nation’s worst ‘hot-spot’ states, and yet TEA continues to stress the supposed dire need to get kids clustered together again in often overcrowded school buildings. It is simply not worth the enormous risk of harm to our children and school employees,” Capo said

Some local school officials were hoping for more, as well.

“Some things are still unclear,” Waco ISD Superintendent Dr. Susan Kincannon said.

“We were hopeful that we would get some more guidance when it came to social distancing within the classroom and it doesn’t appear we are going to get that.”

“We have a lot to get done in a short amount of time,” she said.

A Waco teacher also expressed concern.

“My husband currently has COVID and this really hits close to me,” Claire Wilkison said.

"I have a fear of me going to school and if this happens again I spread it to my students and they spread it to their families I think we all fear that."

“I’m hoping our government will do a lockdown before August because that is how are kids are going to get back to a normal situation,” she said.

The guidance was released as the president said during a White House meeting Tuesday he will pressure governors to reopen schools and colleges this fall.

Mr. Trump said he is “very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools.”

He reiterated a claim that Democrats was to keep schools closed for political, rather than health reasons.

Copyright 2020 KWTX. All rights reserved.

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