Gov. Greg Abbott
1100 Congress Ave, 2S.1
Austin, TX 78701
CC: Commissioner Mike Morath
Texas Education Agency
1701 N. Congress Avenue
Austin, Texas 78701
Dear Governor Abbott:
I am sure you are following the rapid escalation of COVID-19 cases in El Paso County, which reported 358 new COVID-19 cases as of Sunday morning for a new total, nearly 26,000. So far, 534 El Pasoans have died from the disease, which has killed more than 210,000 people nationwide. The weekend numbers confirm a troubling upward trend in El Paso that threatens to grow worse if ignored.
In response to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, our city-county health authority has determined that Halloween trick-or-treating this year would not be permissible under the disease prevention guidelines established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. We are told that it is unsafe for our children to walk around outside in masks, yet our schools now face the prospect of being forced to call students back into classrooms or forfeit state funding.
I write to urge you to provide El Paso schools with the flexibility to continue remote-only instruction beyond the 8-week maximum if local school leaders and public health officials believe doing so is necessary to safeguard the health of students, teachers, and staff. The most recent TEA guidance suggests such flexibility may be extended to districts experiencing COVID-19 hospitalization rates over 15%. This potential exception notwithstanding, the agency guidance expressly states that state funding will not be provided to schools that offer remote-only instruction beyond the 8-week window.
The hospitalization rate in El Paso is currently 14%. Our schools should not be forced to choose between receiving necessary state funding or safeguarding public health over a single percentage point. Our schools already face difficult decisions regarding how best to balance educational needs and the need to prevent an uncontrollable outbreak. They must do so with the confidence and assurance that the state will faithfully meet its full funding commitment.
I appreciate your previous public statements that local schools should make the ultimate decisions regarding how instruction is delivered. In this spirit, I appeal to you to make this flexibility explicit and guarantee that state funding will not be withheld if remote-only instruction continues beyond the 8-week window.
This is an update based on weekly conference calls initiated by the Texas Education Agency.
*Always refer to TEA guidance. This information is subject to change as the situation evolves.
TEA Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Guidance
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) continues to work with the Office of the Governor, Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to coordinate and plan the state’s response to COVID-19. TEA’s role in these efforts is to help coordinate the flow of information from the state to districts, help districts solve problems, and provide guidance that will aid in districts’ decision-making. TEA does not have the general authority to close schools for matters related to health. This authority lies with the local health authority, DSHS, and the Governor of Texas.
Weekly Conference Call | COVID19 Public Education
2020-2021 COVID-19 Public School Case Reporting
The COVID case collection is needed to compile statewide data on COVID-19 cases in schools. It does not include any individually identifiable information. Schools will still have to submit a separate form to report to their local health entity individual information for purposes of public health actions such as contact tracing.
Public Health Planning Guidance
2 Sep | This guidance document is being provided based on the public health situation as we understand it today and takes effect immediately , regardless of whether a school system starts at the date currently planned or the local school board votes to change the school system’s calendar to delay the start of the school year. Changes to the public health situation in the coming months may necessitate changes to this guidance.
This guidance addresses:
Attendance & Enrollment FAQ
4 Aug - Instructional Materials & Equipment Guidance | Texas’ legislative leadership and TEA recently announced that $200 million would be available for eLearning devices and home internet solutions through Operation Connectivity. Additionally, TEA is working to provide free remote learning tools as part of Texas Home Learning 3.0 (e.g. Learning Management Systems and high-quality curriculum) as an option to districts, so they do not have to incur the expense locally.
17 July | Reopening Guidance, Including Local Option for an Online-Only Start, 2020-21
This guidance document is being provided based on the public health situation as we understand it today and takes effect immediately, both for summer school instruction ending the 2019-2020 school year and to help support school systems in planning for the 2020-2021 school year , regardless of whether a school system starts at the date currently planned or the local school board votes to change the school system’s calendar to delay the start of the school year. Changes to the public health situation over the course of the summer may necessitate changes to this guidance.
28 JULY | My LEA was subject to a blanket closure order issued by my local health authority. Will solely remote instruction be funded for the time period of the order?
No. The Texas Attorney General issued a guidance letter on July 28, 2020, that stated that “...local health authorities may not issue blanket orders closing all schools in their jurisdiction on a purely prophylactic basis.” The guidance letter further provides that health authority orders may not conflict with executive orders of the governor and must apply control measures required by statute. Consequently, a blanket order closing schools does not constitute a legally issued closure order for purposes of funding solely remote instruction as described in this document. However, another valid funding exception may apply, such as a start-of-year transition period as described further below, that would be available to the LEA if it did not offer on-campus instruction.
27 Aug | Superintendent's Evaluation / HB3 Developed Goals + Board Trainings
STAY WELL, TEXAS
If you think you need to be tested for COVID-19,
this website allows Texans to find the nearest test collection site.
Status of COVID19 in Texas via Texas State Health Services / COVID19
Texas Health and Human Services launched a 24/7 statewide mental health support line to help all Texans experiencing anxiety, stress or emotional challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This resource offers COVID-19-related mental health support for anyone who calls, including foster parents and all other caregivers. People can call the Statewide COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week toll-free at (833) 986-1919.
Click here to review the Texas Home Learning website
STAAR Testing Window, 2020-2021
Georgina C. Pérez