Less than three weeks ago, Texas was set to unveil its public-school reopening plan for the fall. That announcement was stalled after coronavirus cases and hospitalizations started to soar in the state.
But on Tuesday, the Texas Education Agency finally released its back-to-school guidelines, which included recommendations for preventing the spread of the coronavirus on campuses.
Jacob Carpenter, an education reporter for the Houston Chronicle, told Texas Standard host David Brown on Wednesday that the biggest takeaway from the guidelines is that schools must offer five days per week of in-person instruction if a student wants it. That means that even for schools that had planned to offer a hybrid model – with a mix of in-person and at-home learning – they can still do that, but they also must provide an option for up to five days of in-person instruction per week, if it’s requested.
“[Hybrid learning] isn’t really an option that can be forced on families,” Carpenter said.
Schools also have to offer online learning options for students who cannot come to campus – their full state funding depends on it.
But Carpenter said the five-day, in-person requirement could set up a “looming battle” between teachers and families. Teachers are worried that possibly having to come back to campus full time could jeopardize their health. They’re looking for more protections from the state, including a possible mandate for hybrid learning. But some parents want or need their kids back in school full time.
“You have a greater percentage of staff who want to stay home out of concern of being infected than the percentage of families that want to resume in-person classes,” he said.
TEA’s plan does have recommendations for social distancing and hand-washing in schools. And masks are required for students over the age of 10 and for all public school staff. But that rule lasts only as long as Gov. Greg Abbott keeps his statewide mask mandate in place.
Web story by Caroline Covington.