Teachers union welcomes new state flexibility for remote instruction in pandemic hot spots

For Immediate Release: September 24, 2020

Contact: Rob D’Amico, rdamico@texasaft.org, 512-627-1343

Texas AFT’s call and letter campaign on the issue.

Teachers union welcomes new state flexibility for remote instruction in pandemic hot spots

Responding to an outpouring of demand for flexibility in South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath today issued new guidelines that allow for school districts in areas with spiking COVID-19 cases to request a waiver for additional remote instruction–beyond the maximum eight-week transition period allowable initially. TEA will take into consideration the governor’s recent orders designating areas that must maintain 50% capacity for business occupancy in weighing decisions on waivers for additional days.

“We are appreciative that state officials are responding positively to the thousands of our school employee members lighting up the switchboards and inboxes of the governor and education commissioner asking for common-sense measures to keep out communities safe in pandemic hot spots,” said Zeph Capo, Texas AFT president. 

State Board of Education Member Ruben Cortez was also instrumental in working with TEA to provide more flexibility to local school districts in South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley. “I want to thank Commissioner Mike Morath for taking the time to work with me and listen to the serious concerns of educators in my district who are fighting on the frontlines of this pandemic,” Cortez said. “Knowing they have support from the Commissioner and TEA means the world to these professionals as they move forward in an uncertain school year.”

Another union lobbying for today’s changes in flexibility was Brownsville Educators Stand Together (BEST AFT). “We are happy to hear that TEA has allowed an opportunity for extending our transition period,” said Co-Chair Mary Katherine Nieto. “We would have preferred to see allowable extensions through the first semester, but it is a step in the right direction. What we ask of our school district is that they remain true to their plan, enforce uniformity at all campuses when it comes to carrying out the soft opening, and continue to make sure that all students have access to a device and internet connectivity.”

However, Capo said another new provision in the guidance related to which students count as on-campus instruction is of grave concern and threatens the planning of our large urban districts. “TEA is moving the bar again, complicating the best efforts of districts trying to put safety measures in place,” he said. “Morath’s compulsion to put more and more students on campuses won’t fit the plans of districts that don’t have the space to accommodate these students safely with social distancing.”

“Texans need to stick with a proven plan–low numbers for stats that gauge the spread of the virus, low hospitalization rates, and strict adherence to safety measures–instead of rushing into face-to-face instruction,” Capo said. “Staying with remote instruction or being able to transition to face-to-face only when it is medically advised is critical in stopping the spread of the virus and keeping our kids, teachers, and communities safe.”