As school districts in Texas prepare to open for the 2020-2021 year, the state of Texas has provided a set of guidelines to address the health and safety of students and staff.
For teacher candidates seeking an intern certificate, these guidelines are likely of particular interest. Last month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott provided some flexibility for teacher candidates seeking an intern certificate by removing the requirement of passing a content test.
Candidates who are admitted to an alternative teacher certification program like ECAP, but have not passed a TExES content test, will be eligible for the one-year intern certificate through Oct. 1, 2020. That means for the upcoming fall semester, an intern can be hired for a teaching job before passing a content test.
The guidelines for reopening onsite instruction at schools cover a variety of precautions that must be put into place. Below we’ll explore some of these guidelines.
In-Person Vs. Online
Parents will have the opportunity to choose between remote learning and in-person instruction for their children, according to the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
Although districts may ask that parents commit to a full grading period of remote learning, they will be allowed to switch their students back to in-person instruction and will not have to make a commitment more than two weeks in advance. This allows them to make a decision based on the latest public health information, according to the TEA.
This is an important component of the reopening plan since educators may experience fluctuations in class size as public health information changes.
The state is requiring masks or face shields for students and teachers who attend schools in counties that have reported more than 20 COVID-19 cases. However, children younger than 10 years old will not be required to wear a mask.
Districts that are located in counties that have reported 20 or fewer cases when classes resume will not have to wear masks. However, it is important to note that administrators at the local level can impose face mask requirements if they deem it necessary to do so.
Much of how classrooms are set up this fall will be up to individual school districts. The state recommends to place desks 6 feet apart and to encourage frequent hand washing or sanitizing.
The state is also encouraging districts to clean and sanitize more frequently, especially highly touched surfaces. These include door handles, tables, shared school supplies or art supplies, and computers. If possible, the state recommends for schools to open their windows to increase air flow.
Texas also recommends that students gather outside when appropriate. If you are a physical education teacher, for example, there are opportunities to hold classes outdoors rather than indoors. Even regular classroom instruction can be moved outdoors when feasible.
Educators and staff members must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms each day prior to entering a school building. The state only requires that individuals answer yes or no questions, so an example of a question may be, “Do you have a fever over 100 degrees?” or “Do you have a cough?” However, the state does not recommend nor prohibit actual temperature checks.Visitors, who must wear masks, should be screened as well using the same protocol as above.
Texas is requiring each school district in the state to post its plans for mitigating COVID-19. This must be done at least one week before the school year begins and students and faculty return to a building.
According to the state, districts can also phase-in a return to on-campus instruction. This has to occur within the first three weeks of the school year, however.
Additional information on these and other guidelines can be found in the Public Health Planning Guidance document released by the TEA. These include items such as transportation, use of non-classroom spaces and hand washing techniques.
Micah is the Director of Curriculum & Technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in British Literature, from the University of North Texas and a Master of Arts in Teaching, from Louisiana College. In his previous career, Micah served for 14 years as a banker and bank manager. For the majority of this period, Micah managed the Downtown Fort Worth location of Frost Bank.
In 2005, Micah finally surrendered to his true calling to be an educator. After a brief, but fulfilling term teaching high school English at Flower Mound High School in Lewisville ISD, Micah went to work for the family business, training teachers.
Connect with ECAP
7166 Baker Blvd., Suite B · Richland Hills, Texas 76118 Phone 817-284-7731 | Fax 817-284-3396