AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas State Teachers Association and the Texas American Federation of Teachers have released statements in response to the Texas Education Agency's new guidelines related to opening up campuses for the new school year.
On Tuesday, the Texas Education Agency announced that students should be able to go back to their classrooms in the fall. The TEA released comprehensive guidelines for students to return to school safely.
According to a statement, the agency is "prioritizing their health and safety while ensuring that students receive quality instruction, whether they choose to learn in a safe on-campus environment or remotely."
Texas AFT president Zeph Capo said in a statement that TEA leadership is acting "intentionally and recklessly with gross negligence by issuing guidance that does not take into account the fact that much of Texas is experiencing substantial community spread".
"Under such circumstances, the CDC recommends extended school dismissals," the statement reads. "Our students and teachers deserve a state agency that places their safety above all else."
Capo said that the guidelines appear to ignore the reality of the number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in the state and that while Texas is "one of the nation's worst 'hot-spot' states," "TEA continues to stress the supposed dire need to get kids clustered together again in often overcrowded school buildings."
The statement also calls for TEA to abandon or put into context its message that returning to campuses will be safe as “relatively few children with COVID-19 are hospitalized or have severe symptoms.” Capo says that the problem is that it still puts school employees, parents, and the overall community at significant risk, while also ignoring the enormity of the numbers of students and adults returning to school.
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TSTA President Noel Candelaria said in a statement that TSTA is calling on Gov. Abbott to slow down and put safety first before allowing school districts to reopen campuses.
"The governor reopened restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses too soon and the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations soared. We can't afford to let that happen in our schools," Candelaria said. "Millions of lives are at stake, beginning with our children, our educators, their families and communities."
Candelaria says that no school must reopen until the coronavirus pandemic "has clearly begun to subside and strict safety standards are in place for that campus, including required mask use for students, employees and visitors; regular testing of everyone entering the school for COVID symptoms; and strict social distancing in classrooms and other locations."
TSTA is also asking for Gov. Abbott to clarify whether his recent order for face coverings applies to school campuses. As of now, the order says that children under the age of ten are not required to wear a mask.
"If not, the order must be amended to include schools and the age limit exception removed for schools," Candelaria said. "Teachers must be given the authority to decide whether children younger than 10 in their classes must wear masks."
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