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'It's been chaotic' | Parents struggle with possibility of more remote learning next school year

The TEA is making recommendations that include an earlier start and ending date with more breaks and remote learning

HOUSTON, Texas — The Texas Education Agency is recommending sweeping school calendar changes to help deal with the “devastating impact” of COVID-19 on student achievement.

Many students may be a full year behind when school starts back in the fall.

Built-in remote or distance learning is part of the plan.

"It's been chaotic," Maybelline Alvarez-McCoy said, describing how things have gone since HISD and other districts closed campuses.

She has three children who attend Poe Elementary School.

"Preschool, second grade and fourth grade,” McCoy said. "At first we just had one laptop for all three kids because my husband and I both have full-time jobs.”

She said she’s concerned about the TEA's new recommendations which also include an earlier start date, longer breaks and staggered in-person attendance.

Remote learning is a particular challenge for students without proper access to technology or with parents unable to adequately assist.

"We have folks that aren’t even experiencing (a quarter) of what my kids are experiencing with the equipment that they need,” said McCoy.

The TEA clarified that it’s simply providing options for consideration.

“Ultimately, a local school board adopts calendars that they think will serve their students most effectively,” the agency said in a statement.

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"It’ll definitely be a district-by-district decision,” said Zeph Capo, president of both the Houston Federation of Teachers and the statewide chapter.

He said he believes stakeholders like educators, parents and support staff should be part of any discussion.

"Anytime that we have changes, some people are going to be upset, there’s no doubt about that," said Capo. "But I think we owe it to ourselves to look at every possibility and really make the best decision for the most people that is going to provide the highest level of safety for our kids and for our staff."

“I totally see that. I completely see that,” said McCoy when asked about districts not having much choice when it comes to controlling COVID-19.

TEA's full statement issued Wednesday afternoon:

TEA is in constant contact with superintendents across the state about a host of issues related to the disruptions caused by COVID-19; school systems, students, and parents have been forced to rapidly adapt to a changed learning environment. One topic that's receiving a great deal of attention right now pertains to the school calendar. TEA is simply providing options for consideration that have been informed by our ongoing discussions. Ultimately, a local school board adopts calendars that they think will serve their students most effectively.

We are doing all we can to continue supporting our school systems’ efforts to effectively respond to COVID-19, including how best to address any learning gaps that have emerged over the latter portion of the 2019-20 school year. This is why TEA is now offering a free tool to parents and schools to diagnose how much their students learned this year and to help educators plan for the “COVID Slide.” Parents can sign up here.