Texas education agencies offer information on coronavirus response

Texas public and higher education agencies are using their websites to relay information about campus closings, online learning, and other updates related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Abbott on March 19 ordered schools to temporarily close, acting under the broad authority of the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, Government Code ch. 418.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) provides a site for support and guidance on responding to the coronavirus. The site includes updated information on school closures and directives from the governor and education commissioner about the crisis, including the waiver of state testing requirements for the current school year.

Special education. TEA also is providing local school officials with guidance on special education during classroom disruptions caused by school closures, while emphasizing the priority of health and safety. The provided document outlines legal requirements for students with disabilities to have equal access to educational opportunities when districts provide online education to the general student population. For example, TEA advises local school officials to consider a student’s current accommodations in the physical classroom setting and what those supports would look like in a virtual environment. School officials also are advised to consider ways to use distance technology for committee meetings on a student’s individual education plan.

School meals. A new website launched by TEA lets Texas parents find places nearby where local school systems are offering free school meals for pickup. Parents can type their address into the MealFinder map to find out where to pick up meals. More than 1,000 schools have started meal pick-up locations in areas where more than 50 percent of students are eligible for a free or reduced-price meal, according to TEA.

Higher education. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has information about interruptions to institutions of higher education and other coronavirus updates on its website. The board also answers frequently asked questions, offering information about course changes and student financial aid.

UPDATE: On March 31, Gov. Abbott issued an executive order that schools remain temporarily closed to in-person classroom attendance and not recommence before May 4, 2020.

On April 17, Gov. Abbott issued an executive order that schools remain closed to in-person classroom attendance through the end of the 2019-2020 school year. The waiver allows public education teachers and staff to return to schools to conduct remote video instruction and perform administrative duties under guidelines required by the Texas Education Agency. Private schools and institutions of higher education are encouraged to establish similar guidelines on entering buildings for teachers and staff who need to conduct remote video instruction and perform administrative duties when it is not possible to do those tasks from home.

By Janet Elliott

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