The Fort Worth ISD Board of Education voted 8 to 1 July 30 to delay the opening of the 2020-21 school year until Sept. 8 and then to offer online, at home learning only for the first four weeks, embracing a “safety first” measure for students and employees during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Then, following the four weeks of online instruction, trustees will again evaluate the public health crisis and the trajectory of COVID-19 cases, the Fort Worth ISD said in a news release.
“Our board strongly supports and prioritizes the health and safety of our children and employees,” said Superintendent Kent P. Scribner. “Our goal is to get students back in school when it is safe to do so.”
In Arlington, Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos said earlier that the Arlington ISD will follow the current Texas Education Agency (TEA) guidance that allows districts to conduct the first four weeks of school virtually. The current plan is to begin virtual classes on Aug. 17.
“From there, we can request an additional four weeks. When that time comes, the Arlington ISD will assess the COVID-19 risk factors in partnership with public health officials and consider all available options,” Cavazos said in a statement.
Fort Worth’s decision came at the end of an emergency meeting that began at 8 a.m. and lasted until 1:30 p.m. on July 30.
Trustees heard public comment for two hours from nearly 70 individuals then went into executive session to seek legal advice regarding recent guidance from Texas Education Agency in light of the current public health crisis.
“Educators are being asked to solve a public health problem. We have a great responsibility in this moment. We pledge not only to continue educating all of our children, but commit that we will do everything possible to ensure the health and safety of our employees as well as the students and families we all serve,” Scribner said.
The decision followed series of changing directives from local and state authorities.
Cavazos noted that in his statement.
“I’m disappointed that public school systems have been challenged with ever-changing guidelines, regulations, proclamations and mandates instead of a laser-focus on what’s most important and that’s starting the school year as safely as possible,” Cavazos said.
Scribner said the Fort Worth ISD is “adapting to both changing public health conditions and changing guidance from state agencies.”
Fort Worth had originally planned to begin the school year on Aug. 17 and had offered parents the opportunity to choose either virtual or in-person instruction for their students.
However, Tarrant County public health officials ordered that all public and private schools to operate virtually until Sept. 28.
Then, on July 28, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote an opinion that local health officials do not have the authority to stop in-person learning.
TEA Commissioner Mike Morath withdrew his agency’s previous guidance regarding school openings and local health authorities’ directives. The TEA did specify districts could open schools with a transition period of online instruction for four weeks.
– FWBP Staff