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'I don't think one size fits all' | HISD, FBISD call TEA re-opening guidelines too little, too late

Texas public school districts are mandated to include in-person instruction in 2020-21.

HOUSTON — The state’s largest school district, Houston ISD, plans to reveal new details about the coming school year on July 15. And they’ll be based, in part, on what the Texas Education Agency is now suggesting.

“I think our interim superintendent now has an idea of what we can and cannot do,” said HISD board trustee Sue Deigaard.

Deigaard said statewide guidance finally came Tuesday after many districts worked to develop their own plans.

“I think it’s taken a little longer than I would’ve preferred because the runway now is shorter for opportunities for innovation than it might have been,” Deigaard said.

Basically, the TEA is mandating that public school districts must reopen campuses for in-person instruction in August or possibly lose state funding.

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However, parents can choose remote learning, under certain conditions, but they cannot switch back and forth.

“I don’t think it’s one size fits all," Deigaard said.  "What might work in a rural west Texas district is not going to work in a large urban district like Houston.”

Deigaard said the disparity in the number of COVID-19 cases should also be taken into account. Access to remote learning technology and the needs of working families are other considerations.

The TEA drew swift criticism from Fort Bend ISD, which issued a lengthy statement:

"The TEA’s announcement is disappointing because the guidance, as written, does not provide local school districts with the flexibility to make decisions based on local data or community and staff values and expectations,” it said.

FBISD said the guidelines don't address space limitations for social distancing teacher well-being.

"While it is our intent to provide daily face-to-face classroom learning for any student selecting that option, we cannot commit to such a plan until we survey teachers to determine their willingness and ability to return to face-to-face instruction," the district said.

Some federal and state leaders continue to push the need for in-person classes as a way to get back to some sense of normalcy, even as cases rise in many states.

"I mean, we don’t know how long COVID’s going to last," Deigaard said. "Learning can’t just stop for our kids.”

But Mayor Sylvester Turner says it's too soon to make the call.

"And I think we are confusing the general public when we are trying to wrestle with this virus right now by focusing on something two months away when the forest is on fire right now," Turner said.

Several Houston-area districts plan to release revised reopening plans in the coming days.

Clear Creek ISD may have been the first here.

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