Summer school guidelines likely a means for districts to test the waters for opening campuses, but students can’t be forced to attend in person

The governor on Monday announced new and modified orders that allowed for students and staff to work on-site at campuses for summer school, and TEA simultaneously released detailed guidelines outlining safety, sanitation, and academic processes to follow. While districts retain a lot of discretion in local decisions—as has been the case for most pandemic-related issues—one chief rule from TEA stands out:

“Summer school attendance in person at school must be optional for students. Students who are mandated by their school system to attend summer school as a condition of promotion to the next grade or to otherwise obtain course credit may not be required to attend in-person but would still need to satisfy district academic and/or participation requirements virtually if they do not attend in person.”

Whether districts decide to have on-site instruction for summer school will vary to a large degree among the 1,100 districts across the state, with some likely to test the waters of returning to campuses with a combination of remote and on-site instruction, social distancing, and sanitation policies. For many local officials, it will be an opportunity to think through and possibly experiment with strategies for the next school year.

The American Federation of Teachers already had published detailed guidelines for access to schools and conducting instruction—what it calls a “flexible blueprint” developed by teachers and public health workers.

The specter of returning to campuses will revive a lot of the crucial issues around whether health-compromised school employees and students should be forced back to on-site work. We encourage you to keep your safety a top priority and read our initial guides on these decisions on our COVID-19 resource pages here:

Related to openings is decision-making over calendars and options for intersessional and year-round schooling presented by the Texas Education Agency. We covered that issue in last week’s news, and followed up with a primer on how year-round schooling works, including some mistaken beliefs about it, in a #TxEd in the Media column.