AUSTIN (WBAP/KLIF) – Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Senate Education Chairman Larry Taylor, and House Education Chairman Dan Huberty have clarified their positions on the start of school amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
“The Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) guidance for opening public schools in Texas for the 2020-21 school year remains the same as announced two weeks ago,” the group said in a joint statement released Friday. “The top priority is protecting the safety and health of students, teachers, staff, and families. To achieve that goal, the TEA provided local school boards the flexibility they need to open schools in ways that ensure public safety while also providing the best education options for students during this challenging school year.”
Siding with guidance from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued this week, the lawmakers said the TEA guidance applies long-standing state law and Executive Orders to conclude that the authority to make decisions about when and how schools safely open rests with the constitutionally and statutorily established local school boards.
“The authority to decide when the school year will begin lies with local school boards,” the statement read. “They can choose dates in August, September, or even later. But, whenever the local school board chooses to open, the board must comply with the requirement to provide the necessary number of days and hours of instruction for students.”
According to the lawmakers, the authority to decide how schools will safely open this year, again, lies with local school boards. It can be with students in schools, it can be through remote learning, or a combination of the two.
“In making that decision, school boards have the ability to base their decisions on advice and recommendations by local public health authorities but are not bound by those recommendations,” they said. “As the TEA previously announced, school boards have up to a 4-week back to school transition period during which they can offer a solely remote instructional setting if that is deemed needed for the health and safety of students, teachers, staff and parents.”
After four weeks, the school district can extend the transition period up to another 4 weeks with a vote of the school board and receiving a waiver. If any school district believes they need an extension beyond 8 weeks due to COVID-19 related issues, the TEA will review that request on a case-by-case basis.
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