Abbott and TEA announce changes and flexibility

As the new school year draws nearer and parents and educators continue to grapple with how to handle the return to school issue, the Texas Education Agency eased their position on in-person instruction mandates as schools work to manage the coronavirus pandemic.

TEA issued new rules Friday that give local school districts added control and flexibility over the decision making as to things like start dates and on how long schools can remain closed and teach students online.

In addition to the TEA softening, Gov. Greg Abbott said that the state will allocate $200 million in federal coronavirus aid to purchase of eLearning devices and internet access to help families who don’t have WiFi to be able to learn remotely.

Today’s change comes just a week after the agency laid out guidelines that required parents to choose between sending their children to school in person all the time or only being educated online, rather than any “hybrid version” of the plan.

TEA also said that they are extending the time districts can teach online without financial penalty and will allow districts to teach online for up to eight weeks, with the second four weeks requiring a waiver from the state. High school students also will now have the flexibility to learn through a hybrid model of some in-person instruction and some online.

The order from Corpus Christi/Nueces County health authority, issued on Thursday aimed at any districts in the county, blocks any in-person learning for public and private schools until after Sept. 7. However, to ensure equitable access to education for students who lack internet access, the state agency is requiring districts to make an exception for students who might be seen as disadvantaged and do not have access to eLearning tools.

This is a developing story.

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