The Honorable Greg Abbott
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428
March 23, 2020
Dear Governor Abbott,
Texas AFT, which represents public school employees across the state, continues to hear that some school districts are requiring personnel to report to work in person, despite the executive order closing schools and restricting gatherings to no more than 10 people. During this uncertain time, school districts need specific guidance to ensure the safety of the workers responsible for educating our children. No one should have to choose between having a job and putting themselves and their families at risk.
Please direct school districts to hold meetings electronically rather than asking educators to physically gather on campus. We also ask that any necessary information and lessons be mailed to students through the postal service or email, rather than delivered to student homes by teachers, as was suggested during yesterday’s press conference. If they must be delivered, then we have bus routes already put together with experienced drivers who could drop work and meals at bus stops, particularly for students living in rural areas who may not be able to make the journey to school.
While persons with underlying medical conditions and those older than 60 are especially vulnerable to infection, we know that asymptomatic persons can carry the infection to others in their households. Many of our workers have children who have no childcare due to the closure of schools. Despite these challenges, our educators have been reaching out to students, preparing lessons with their districts, and ensuring our children receive the best education possible during this time.
We understand that certain personnel, such as cafeteria workers, must physically come to campus to feed children during this time. In these cases, we ask that you direct school districts to utilize employees volunteering to come to campus before requiring physical attendance of any employee.
As your administration works with the Texas Education Agency and local districts to plan the next few months, we ask you and the Commissioner of Education to engage with the educators who work with our children every day. During yesterday’s press conference you mentioned conversations occurring with the Commissioner about potentially extending the school year. We have serious concerns about this, with issues ranging from creating upheaval for students, families and educators to matters of compensation and scheduling. As always, I am happy to facilitate meetings with educators to address these issues.
President, Texas AFT