Legal Update Regarding New TEA Guidance
This morning, TEA issued updated health and safety guidance for in-person and remote instruction for the fall. The guidance document is available at https://tea.texas.gov/sites/default/files/covid/Covid-19-SY-20-21-Public-Health-Guidance.pdf.
We previously provided you a summary of the health and safety guidance TEA issued on July 7, 2020. The new guidance differs in a number of key ways:
1) TEA continues to mandate in-person instruction for all students whose parents request it; however, TEA adds that this requirement is subject to school closure and certain exceptions. For example, school districts may offer a hybrid model of instruction (less than daily in-person instruction) for high school students in order to reduce the total number of people on campus at any one time.
2) TEA originally permitted school districts to transition to in-person instruction via a three-week transition period, in which the school district could offer 100% remote instruction (so long as all students had access to internet and a remote device). TEA has expanded this option. Under the new guidance, school districts may temporarily limit access to in-person instruction for the first four weeks of school, which can be extended by an additional four weeks by vote of the school board for a total eight weeks of 100% remote instruction. School districts must still ensure that all students have access to internet and a remote device; any family that does not have access to the internet or devices will still be entitled to in-person instruction during this time.
Additionally, Governor Abbott issued a letter today regarding the reopening of schools. In his letter, Governor Abbott describes many of the health and safety procedures contained in TEA’s guidance issued today. Governor Abbott also reaffirms TEA’s guidance that school districts may transition to virtual instruction for up to five consecutive days to allow for a deep-cleaning of schools and facilities without losing funding. Governor Abbott’s letter also states that schools will be guaranteed ADA funding based on a 3-year trend of attendance for the first 12 weeks of the fall semester. Finally, Governor Abbott confirms that school districts will continue to receive state funding if they are closed to in-person instruction by order of a local health authority, so long as the school district continues to provide virtual instruction to all students.