Amarillo Education Association calls for remote instruction to start school year

On Tuesday, the Amarillo Education Association joined with other union members and calling for remote instruction for the first nine weeks of the new school year.

“As this viral pandemic continues to spread in our community and across out state, it has become increasingly clear that a return to the classroom will put the safety of students and educators at risk. We want to be back in schools, but we can’t risk the lives of our children or the adults working with them to do so," AEA President Aaron Phillips said.

The Amarillo ISD is currently following the Texas Education Agency's recommendations for reopening schools this fall.

“With the safety of our students and staff as the top priority, AISD is committed to doing everything we can to meet the needs of our diverse populations and provide the quality education our stakeholders expect from their local schools. 

"We want and need the flexibility to do what’s best for our community throughout the school year, whether that is in-person instruction, virtual learning or a combination of both. Texas is a big state with vast differences that should be addressed by those who best know their local communities," AISD said in a statement to High Plains Pundit.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said despite what he described as a "challenging" upcoming budget year, parents will have more choices than normal this year as they decide which school setting is best for their children, which includes the following:

Daily on-campus learning will be available to all parents who would like their students to learn in school each day.

In addition, all parents will have the option to choose remote learning for their children, initially, or at any point as the year progresses.

Parents who choose remote instruction for their students may be asked to commit to remote instruction for a full grading period (e.g. six or nine weeks), but will not have to make that commitment more than two weeks in advance, so they can make a decision based on the latest public health information.

Health and safety procedures will be in place to support student and teacher safety.

Some health procedures are mandated for every school in the state. For example, all students, teachers, staff, and visitors coming to campus must be screened before being allowed on campus. To align with Gov. Greg Abbott's most recent executive order, and assuming that order is still in place, masks will be required while in school buildings, with certain exceptions made, as noted in the order. Schools will also be required to follow any forthcoming executive orders issued by the governor.

Additional health procedures are recommended for every school that can reasonably implement those procedures.

Districts have the option to establish a phased-in return to on-campus instruction for up to the first three weeks of the school year, to ensure all appropriate health and safety procedures are fully in place.

TEA is also providing school systems with the following:

Reimbursement for extra COVID-19-related expenses incurred during the 2019-20 school year.

Tens of millions of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies provided to school systems at no cost to Texas schools.

Free online, TEKS-aligned learning tools to deliver remote instruction.

Teacher training provided at no cost to the school system.

Statewide efforts to help bridge the digital divide for students at home, along with other ongoing support.

The University Interscholastic League announced that students in remote learning situations offered by the their local school districts can participate in UIL activities.

The following is from the UIL website:

Remote Learning, Academic Eligibility, Credit Requirements

As schools prepare for a variety of learning options for the coming school year, UIL is providing the following information related to those options and UIL student eligibility.

Students participating in remote learning offered by their school district, whether synchronous or asynchronous (as defined by TEA), may participate in UIL activities if they meet all other UIL eligibility requirements. Students must be enrolled in remote learning options through the school the student will represent. Schools may develop local policies with additional requirements for participation. You can find more information related to the full-time student rule in the UIL Constitution and Contest Rules.

Schools should develop grading policies for remote learning options that outline the criteria for determining if a student is passing all courses at the end of grading and evaluation periods. Days when school is not in session should be treated as school holidays for purposes of determining academic eligibility for both remote and in-person learning. All students are academically eligible when school is not in session for a full calendar week or more. More information related to no pass-no play can be found in the TEA-UIL Side by Side Manual.

For the 2020-2021 school year, UIL eligibility requirements for the first six weeks of school have been modified to allow a student to be eligible for the first six weeks if they accumulated at least two and a half credits since the start of the 2019-2020 school year. Schools may impose additional requirements.