Texas Delays School Reopening Guidelines As COVID-19 Numbers Increase

School, Children running to school
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The Texas Education Agency has delayed its final recommendations for school districts to reopen safely this fall as the number of cases of COVID-19 has increased. TEA was scheduled to release its report Tuesday but instead held a conference call with superintendents with some guidelines of how to reopen schools.

"I was on the call expecting to get, first of all, the rules for how we would get funding for at-home learning. I got part of that," says Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. "I was also expecting to get the rules of engagement for how we would operate safely in August. I didn't get any of that."

Hinojosa says superintendents were told the state has masks available if schools need them, but he says schools will not be able to require masks, and districts were not given details about how to sanitize schools.

TEA Commissioner Mike Morath, a former Dallas ISD board member, told superintendents he could not give final guidance on in-campus instruction because of the changing COVID-19 situation and the state would release that guidance "as soon as possible."

"As we continue to closely monitor the public health situation, we are, in fact, still soliciting feedback on this guidance. No final decisions have yet been made. Additional guidance will be provided soon," TEA wrote in a statement.

Morath says additional information about live-streamed classes or recorded lessons would be available next month.

Hinojosa says superintendents were told they would not be penalized for drops in attendance the first 12 weeks of the school year, so families who choose to keep their kids home would not count against funding. Instead, TEA says districts will need approval for worksheets and recorded videos that will be sent to kids as part of at-home lessons.

Regardless of the final recommendations, Hinojosa says Dallas ISD will receive masks from the state and will install plexiglass shields to separate students. He had previously said Dallas ISD would likely use a hybrid of in-person and virtual classes. That way, he said some grades could learn from home, providing more space for social distancing at schools.

Hinojosa also says surveys of parents had changed.

"Initially, 80 percent of them said they'd be willing to come into the building and/or have some sort of combination," he says. "Now, that is shifting to 50-50 based upon the spike in cases in the last week or so."

Dallas ISD is scheduled to resume classes August 17. Fort Worth ISD has said it hopes to finalize plans for fall by July 2.