In a TV interview Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott indicated Texas school districts will be allowed to push back the start of face-to-face instruction. The news comes after school districts, teacher groups and parents around the state have been pleading for more local control on when students return to the classroom.
Guidance from the Texas Education Agency last week indicated districts could not delay in-person instruction for longer than three weeks without risking their state funding.
On Tuesday, Abbott said that timeframe will be extended. The governor’s decision came on the same day Texas set a new record for confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Abbott told KTRK Channel 13 in Houston that local school districts will have “great latitude and flexibility.”
Some school districts have already decided to start the year with online learning only. Others have pushed the first day of school back until after Labor Day and then will keep students online for a few weeks to give the state time to flatten the COVID-19 curve. The state’s largest school district, Houston Independent School District, has decided to begin the school year virtually on Sept. 8.
Regardless of when schools open, the state has said parents will have a choice between sending their kids back to the classroom or opting for at-home virtual learning guided by the teachers back at the schools. Beyond that, the state has not provided guidance for protecting teachers, who are more at risk for contracting the virus.
“If you open K-12 in areas where virus transmission [is] accelerating, teachers, staff will get sick, as will parents,” tweeted Peter Hotez, infectious disease expert and the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “All it takes is for one or two teachers, staff, or parents to enter [a] hospital, and it will be lights out.”