Accidentally posted preliminary TEA guidelines suggest few COVID-related mandates when schools reopen this fall
Even as new case counts for COVID-19 reach all-time highs around the state—5,000 today—the Texas Education Agency posted documents to its website Tuesday with safety suggestions, but few requirements, for what schools must do when they reopen this fall.
The documents, posted accidentally and then removed, include recommendations for mask-wearing, increasing the availability of hand sanitizer, and social distancing for in-person learning, but also provide flexibility for students who want to continue remote learning in the fall.
"These are draft documents. They were posted in the staging portion of the TEA website by mistake as part of an internal document review," the agency said in a statement to The Texas Tribune. "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."
Documents wound up on TEA's website the same day state education leaders were expected to announce more detailed guidelines for what school will look like in the fall. Gov. Greg Abbott said last week that he expects in-person learning to resume. Despite suggesting that students and staff wear masks, the guidelines leave it up to the schools to decide whether to require this. AISD said last week that a mask requirement was under consideration.
One major change to the proposed rules regarding remote learning will be the requirement that schools regularly monitor engagement by students learning from home, the documents show. If students are not up to date on watching lessons or completing assignments, for example, the school risks losing funding. Schools typically receive funding from the state based on the number of students in class each day.
The guidelines say the state will require schools to offer in-person learning as an option to students. For those who do attend class, the documents say schools should require self-screening and temperature checks for COVID-19, and that school leaders should also screen students and employees once a week by asking if they have symptoms or come into contact with someone infected with the virus.
School districts will also be required to post detailed plans for how they plan to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus. However, the plans do not need to receive government approval, reducing the potential for oversight.
If a student comes to school showing symptoms, they must be isolated until they can be picked up by a parent or guardian and all areas they came into contact with must be cleaned.
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