TEA posts new rules on remote instruction and what districts must do to maintain funding

In national news, CDC removes content originally urging the reopening of schools

Amidst a flurry of some districts closing campuses and even going back to remote instruction district-wide, the Texas Education Agency this week clarified its rules for what districts must do to maintain state funding during the pandemic.

The new rules state that when districts conclude a “back-to-school transition period or transition period extension, all students who wish to attend on campus must be allowed back on campus, even if the end of the transition period does not correspond to the beginning of a grading period.” However, districts can make students who initially chose remote instruction continue it until a new grading period starts.

TEA also states that districts not in compliance with its rules will only get half of the instructional minutes they would normally get–meaning they would risk losing funding if they don’t add additional days on their school calendars. TEA did, however, set a new rule that allows districts to go back to remote instruction for up to two weeks if staffing campuses is impossible because of COVID-19 issues. One caveat is that districts still must provide on-site instruction for students lacking the technology devices needed for remote learning.

Meanwhile, at the national level, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) quietly removed a statement from its website that originally stressed “the importance of reopening America’s schools.” This statement was released in July of 2020 after the Trump administration threatened to take away funding from schools if they did not reopen. Also disappearing from the website was language that minimized the risk of reopenings, such as: “Scientific studies suggest that COVID-19 transmission among children in schools may be low….Based on current data, the rate of infection among younger school children, and from students to teachers, has been low, especially if proper precautions are followed.”

Some have questioned whether the agency decided to remove the statement due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, and whether it could have been a result of pushback from CDC staff upset that the original language was written by political appointees pushing the president’s agenda. The statements were believed to be removed before November 3,  prior to the election of Joe Biden, who has stressed he intends on following a scientific, centralized approach to controlling the virus.

Throughout the pandemic, CDC has continuously added new guidelines to its website for schools. For instance, in September, it created a color-coded chart with health indicators that described the level of risk in school buildings. Last week, CDC released more guidance for school nurses. This past Monday, November 16, it updated school guidelines on quarantining students exposed to COVID-19.