AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas Education Agency confirms students will return to classrooms this fall. However, there will be remote learning available for families with health concerns.
In a statement the TEA Commissioner Mike Morath writes, “It will be safe for Texas public school students, teachers, and staff to return to school campuses for in-person instruction this fall. But there will also be flexibility for families with health concerns so that their children can be educated remotely, if the parent so chooses.
“Detailed guidance on what this will look like will be issued by TEA early next week.”
Not everyone is convinced by that.
“We have a significant number of teachers that are deeply concerned, particularly when they see that their recommendation is no requirement for safety gear, particularly masks or others, for students and staff when they return,” said Zeph Capo, president of Texas American Federation of Teachers.
Capo said, when it comes to locations with a risk of a COVID-19 spread, schools are near the top of the list and teachers aren't ready to put their lives on the line.
“Simply based on the fact that we generally have overcrowded classrooms, a lot of people in smaller spaces, that we've been short on funding for so long, the conditions are ripe for massive spread if we continue with business as usual in August,” said Capo.
Austin ISD said they will have protocols in place when their 127 campuses welcome students back to the classroom.
Students entering a school building will have their temperatures checked, classrooms will be limited to 25 percent occupancy, virtual learning will remain an option for families with health concerns and students and faculty will be provided a mask if they do not have one.
Former AISD teacher and parent of an Austin High School sophomore Geno Gottschall said no matter how many precautions are taken, there will always be some risk.
“Just from some of the things that I've heard, it's like, it could work, but it could not work. Anything from keeping dividers between the desks, to doing more virtual learning online. But I don't know if there's any way to make us 100 percent comfortable as parents,” Gottschall said.
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One thing both teachers and parents said would help calm their nerves a bit is to be included in discussions with the TEA and local school districts on ideas to keep campuses safe.
“Now that would be great. And maybe kind of do it in coordination with people from the health field. Number one, it would let us feel like they do care about what's going on with our kids,” said Gottschall.
AISD said if there are any outbreaks at any of their campuses, that school will shut down and move back to virtual classrooms. The district also plans to survey the community and provide training for families prior to the start of the school year.
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