HOUSTON – As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc in Texas, one of the most hotly debated issues is whether Texas schools should resume in-person classes in the fall.
Students have been home since mid-March after the pandemic first took hold in the Houston-area and many parents have grappled with decisions like childcare, learning and whether or not they feel comfortable sending their children back to school.
As school districts continue to finalize their plans for the 2020-21 school year, the Texas Education Agency announced Tuesday that all Texas parents will get a choice on whether or not to send their children back to school.
The TEA cites research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among others that found that while children do get infected by COVID-19 and some severe outcomes have been reported in children, relatively few children with COVID-19 are hospitalized or have severe symptoms.
Attendance requirements for the 2020-21 school year will remain consistent with previous years, officials said. All Texas students must maintain at least 90% attendance in order to be awarded credit for a course and be promoted to the next grade.
If you want to send your kids to school
Per the new guidance, schools and districts will have to offer on-campus learning for children whose parents want to send their children to school each day.
If you do send your children to school, masks will be required while in school buildings, per Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest executive order requiring Texans wear masks. The exceptions to this order will be children under the age of 10. Other exceptions to this order can be found here.
“There will almost certainly be situations that necessitate temporary school closure due to positive COVID-19 cases in schools,” TEA wrote. “Parents, educators, and school administrators should be prepared for this in the event that it occurs, while actively working to prevent it through prevention and mitigation practices.”
Schools may stagger reopening during the first three weeks of the school year in order to ensure an effective back-to-school transition. As a result, parents opting for in-person classes may have to start the year temporarily with remote learning. If your child does not have access to the internet or devices needed for distance learning, they are entitled to on-campus instruction even during the transition period.
All students, teachers, staff and visitors on campus will be screened before they can go on campus, TEA says. If a student has contracted COVID-19, is showing symptoms or was exposed to someone with the virus, parents have to opt for remote instruction until the conditions for re-entry are met, officials said.
If you want to keep your kids at home
On the other hand, if parents want to keep their children home from school, they will have that option made available to them as well. If parents choose to keep their children home from school at any point during the school year, TEA says they may have to commit to remote learning for an entire grading period — 6 to 9 weeks.
However, they will not have to make that commitment more than 2 weeks ahead of time so they can make the choice based on the public health circumstances at the time.
“If a parent who chooses virtual instruction wants their child to switch to an on-campus instructional setting, they can do so, but school systems are permitted to limit these transitions to occur only at the end of a grading period, if it will be beneficial to the student’s instructional quality,” TEA officials wrote. “If a parent requests virtual instruction and the school does not offer it, the parent may enroll in another school that does offer it for transfer students.”
Read the full guidelines from the Texas Education Agency below: