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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Local schools to remain closed for on-campus attendance through at least Sept. 27

The public health authorities in Tarrant County, Arlington and Burleson jointly ordered July 21 that public and non-religious private schools will be closed for on campus, face-to-face instruction or activities until Sept. 28 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent P. Scribner said that students will return to local campuses when it is safe to do so. In the meantime, the district will open online. The Arlington ISD plans the same process.

“While this isn’t what everyone wanted to hear, we recognize that the decision was made in the best interest of safety for our students, staff members and community,” Arlington ISD Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos said. “We appreciate the work that went into making this decision and we know that leaves our parents, students and staff with many questions that we will begin answering today and in the coming days.”

Arlington classes will begin virtually on Aug. 17, the Arlington ISD said,

“We believe the best place for a child to learn is in the classroom with a high-quality teacher,” said Fort Worth ISD’s Scribner. “We also know our current public health crisis is making that a challenge. We will bring students back to class once it is safe to do so. Until then, our online instruction for the 2020-21 fall semester will be robust, organized, and a consistent experience for all students.”

The Mansfield ISD said that students will begin the 2020-21 school year on Aug. 12 in a virtual setting in compliance with the order.

Families who registered for in-person learning will begin attending in-person classes at their campus on Monday, Sept. 28, Mansfield said. Families who registered for online learning through the MISD Virtual Learning Academy will continue receiving instruction online.

“We are all in uncharted territory, both as parents and educators, and we appreciate your continued patience, flexibility and support,” the school district said.

The order was signed by Catherine A. Colquitt, M.D., medical director of Tarrant County; Cynthia Simmons, M.D., medical director of Arlington; and Steve Martin, M.D., medical director of Burleson.

The order by the doctors noted that the Texas Attorney General’s office has issued an opinion saying that Gov. Greg Abbott cannot mandate that religious school follow his orders.

“We strongly urge religious private schools to implement health and safety measures to protect the health and well-being of students, teachers, staff, parents and our community,” the doctors said.

The Arlington ISD will begin in the virtual environment and the district said students will receive instruction from their assigned teachers both through live and pre-recorded sessions. A numerical grading system will be implemented from the first day and technology and connectivity will be made available to those in need.

The Joint Control Order will allow teachers to teach their virtual classes from their home campus so that they have access to available resources.

The Fort Worth Independent School District said it is modifying its plans for the fall semester in light of the health officials joint order, the ISD said. District leaders have said the 2020-21 school year will begin as scheduled on Aug. 17.

The order by the local health authorizes said schools could not reopen for on-campus, face-to-face instruction or activities with these exceptions:

– Administrators, teachers, and staff may conduct or facilitate virtual or remote learning processes while on-campus provided they strictly follow the existing guidance for social distancing and facial coverings;

– All school-sponsored events and activities, including but not limited to clubs, sports, band, choir, fairs, exhibitions, academic and/or athletic competitions, and similar student activities may only take place remotely or outdoors, with social distancing requirements of a minimum of six feet, facial coverings, and other established safety protocols determined by the School System;

– Special education instruction may occur when necessary and in accordance with TEA guidelines so long as and when feasible facial coverings are worn over one’s nose and mouth, and social distancing measures of at least six feet are followed; and

– Students whose individual education plans cannot be implemented with remote learning or who have limited household connectivity to the internet may be provided in­person instruction with social distancing and facial coverings, as feasible.

The order said that individuals from the same household are not required to maintain six feet of social distancing.

Schools may continue to provide curbside meals from the school campuses while following federal, state and local guidelines to prevent transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.

– Paul K. Harral

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