Texas attorney general says religious private schools "need not comply" with local health orders to close

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at the Texas Federation of Republican Women Convention in Dallas on Oct. 19, 2017. Laura Buckman for The Texas Tribune

While local health officials have the authority to keep school districts closed for in-person instruction through the fall, Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a letter to schools Friday that private religious schools are are free to decide for themselves whether to reopen.

Last week, the state's education agency released an order requiring schools to open their buildings to in-person instruction five days a week for all students who want it. Following backlash, on Friday, Texas officials said school districts will be allowed to delay on-campus instruction for at least four weeks, and ask for waivers to continue remote instruction for up to four additional weeks in areas hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, TEA officials confirmed that school districts wouldn't be penalized for barring students on campuses if local health officials mandated that schools stay closed, as long as remote instruction is offered.