Before Thanksgiving some school districts in Texas sent virtual learning materials home, just in case returning to the classroom for in-person learning wouldn’t happen due to COVID-19.
Here we look at what Texas school districts in five major cities are planning when it comes to returning on-campus or going remote after the holidays so far.
After Thanksgiving and after winter break, Robyn Harris, a spokesperson for Dallas ISD confirmed Monday, that the district will continue to offer both in-person and virtual learning models.
During a time of increased COVID-19 cases, some North Texas educators are concerned about returning to the classroom.
Before Thanksgiving break, ABC13 reported that Andrew Dewey, executive vice president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said the teachers’ association has urged the district to move all schools to 100% virtual learning after the break.
The HISD district blog states that after Thanksgiving the district will resume normal school and business operations on Monday, Nov. 30.
The district will resume both virtual and in-person learning at this time.
The students in the Austin Independent School District will only have remote instruction for the week after Thanksgiving until Dec. 4.
Last Friday, Superintendent Stephanie S. Elizalde sent a letter to families in preparation for temporarily transitioning to remote-only instruction.
This week, the district will offer rapid testing this week for all on-campus students and staff.
Eddie Villa, communications specialist at Austin ISD said it is too soon to tell about what the district’s plans will be for students after winter break.
“We meet regularly with APH and Dr. Mark Escott to evaluate area cases and base our decisions off their guidance,” Villa confirmed.
San Antonio ISD
Laura Short, spokeswomen at San Antonio ISD provided a statement on Monday in regards to students returning from Thanksgiving,
“As we return from Thanksgiving break, San Antonio ISD is continuing our plan to have students learning both remotely and in-person. For those learning in-person, we will continue strictly enforcing the safety protocols we have in place, which include masking, handwashing, social distancing, increased building sanitation, plexiglass barriers, and most recently, COVID-19 testing.”
At this time, a response about the district’s plans for students returning to campus after winter break has not been received.
Other schools go remote.
Other schools in Texas are opting for 100% remote instruction between Thanksgiving and winter break.
Beaumont ISD announced a district transition to remote learning on November 30-December 4, following the Thanksgiving break. A letter to families states that students and staff will return to on-campus learning, December 7.
Two school districts in South Texas are also going remote for the first week after Thanksgiving and returning on the 7th.
How does virtual learning affect school funding?
School districts are funded based on attendance and enrollment, the updated guidance from the Texas Education Agency warns school leaders that districts opting for a 100% remote learning environment during the 2020-2021 school year without documented coronavirus cases will face funding reduced by half.
The TEA guidance states 75,600 operational minutes are required during the pandemic, and districts opting for full remote learning means adding calendar days to count toward the minutes.
KXAN reported at Austin ISD, school days will be extended by 30 seconds beginning Jan. 5 to cover the remaining balance of instructional time.
The TEA’s updated guidance states that students who contract the coronavirus would be permitted 14 days of remote learning. If instructional staff at a school campus is impacted due to coronavirus cases or outbreaks, the agency has extended remote instructional learning to 14 days, with a campus access restriction to allow for an “incubation period.”
When it comes to re-opening, the guidance states, “a closure period does not end until the campus has reopened for oncampus instruction for at least one instructional day.”
Campuses that are using in-person learning must submit a request to TEA if they want to restrict access to campus due to confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The choice for remote.
Teacher groups believe the state should require all school districts to offer the virtual learning option for the remainder of the school year.
“If students and their families traveled over the holiday break or entertained guests or went shopping in stores or went to the movies, they probably should stick to virtual learning for at least the next two weeks as a precaution,” Clay Robison, spokesperson for the Texas State Teachers Association said on Monday.
Robison said that many of the group’s members are very concerned about having to teach from the classroom. “Teachers, as well as students, should have the option of remote learning, and the state and school districts should make a greater effort to accommodate these teachers,” Robison added.
Here’s more on Texas school districts resuming virtual and in-person learning.