Summaries of TACS Calls With TACS Member Superintendents
For legal questions concerning the COVID virus, please contact:
Sara Leon at 512-637-4244: email@example.com
***On Thursday, March 19, 2020, Gov. Abbott issued an Executive Order closing ALL schools (and other facilities). The order goes into effect at midnight, to continue to April 3, 2020.***
Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday, March 18, issued a proclamation suspending provisions of the Texas Election Code to allow political subdivisions to postpone their 2020 local elections. This means local governments now have the ability to postpone their May 2 elections until November 3, 2020. An election involving a trustee would not alter the Trustee’s term (it would be as if the Trustee was elected in May). Additionally, the proclamation requires that counties enter into an election services agreement for that election, if so requested. Read more. The Texas Secretary of State has also issued this election advisory, which provides important information.
On Monday, March 16, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he has waived the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) testing requirements for the 2019-20 school year. Additionally, Abbott is requesting that the Department of Education waive federal testing requirements for the 2019-20 school year.
On Monday, March 16, at 2:30 p.m. in San Antonio, Gov. Greg Abbott, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd, and Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD, will hold a joint press conference to provide an update on Texas’ continued efforts to combat coronavirus, as well as the San Antonio drive-through coronavirus testing site. The press conference will likely be carried live by a local news station.
On Friday, March 13, Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference at the State Capitol to update the public on the status of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Texas and what the state is doing to protect public health. The governor also announced several new actions Texas is taking to mitigate the spread of the virus, including declaring a State of Disaster in all Texas counties.
On Monday, March 16, Gov. Abbott, in accordance with section 418/016 of Texas Government Code, suspended various laws requiring state and local government officials as well as members of the public to be physically present at public meetings per the Open Meetings Act. Learn more.
We will keep this page updated as news progresses.
Texas Education Agency
Starting Tuesday, March 17, TEA will move to a mandatory telework policy for agency employees. TEA will not accept visitors at this time. The agency encourages constituents to utilize the HelpDesk system and TEA main line: 512.463.9734. All essential agency services will continue to be provided.
On the TEA COVID-19 webpage, you will find agency correspondence related to COVID-19, including the following:
March 13 guidance for Texas public schools regarding COVID-19 and students with disabilities served by special education. This guidance is intended to complement what was published on March 12 by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.
Initial guidance PDF – This document is focused on several topics, including: district decision-making and communication; funding questions; potential attendance waivers; special populations, and online learning. TEA advised that this guidance will be updated.
U.S. Department of Education
The U.S. Department of Education’s COVID-19 webpage includes information and resources for schools and districts.
On March 12, the U.S. Department of Education and other federal partners hosted a conference call with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to discuss the Administration’s response to COVID-19 and to answer their members’ questions about school closures, school meal programs, testing and accountability measures, and grant administration, among other topics. Learn more.
Also on March 12, the U.S. Department of Education issued new resources to assist education leaders in protecting student privacy and ensuring students with disabilities continue to receive services required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in the event of school closures due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The Education Department also released important information for K-12 educators on flexibilities the Department could grant when it comes to the accountability standards required by law under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Learn more.
On March 20, Secretary of Ed Betsy DeVos announced that students impacted by school closures due to the pandemic can bypass standardized testing for the 2019-20 school year. Upon a proper request, the Department will grant a waiver to any state that is unable to assess its students because of the ongoing national emergency, providing relief from federally mandated testing requirements for this school year. Many states have closed some or all schools. Therefore, any state unable to assess its students may seek a waiver from federal testing requirements by completing a form. At the Secretary’s direction, the Department has dramatically streamlined the application process to make it as simple as possible for state leaders who are grappling with many complex issues.
Since student performance, as measured by assessments, is required to be used in statewide accountability systems, any state that receives a one-year waiver may also receive a waiver from the requirement that testing data be used in the statewide accountability system because of the ongoing national emergency.
Second, the Secretary announced that Federal Student Aid (FSA) is executing on the President’s promise to provide student loan relief to tens of millions of borrowers during the national emergency. All borrowers with federally held student loans will automatically have their interest rates set to 0% for a period of at least 60 days. In addition, each of these borrowers will have the option to suspend their payments for at least two months to allow them greater flexibility during the national emergency. This will allow borrowers to temporarily stop their payments without worrying about accruing interest.
The Secretary has also directed all federal student loan servicers to grant an administrative forbearance to any borrower with a federally held loan who requests one. The forbearance will be in effect for a period of at least 60 days, beginning on March 13, 2020. To request this forbearance, borrowers should contact their loan servicer online or by phone.
And, the Secretary has authorized an automatic suspension of payments for any borrower more than 31 days delinquent as of March 13, 2020, or who becomes more than 31 days delinquent, essentially giving borrowers a safety net during the national emergency.
Some borrowers may want to continue making payments, like those seeking Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) or those enrolled in a repayment plan with a manageable monthly payment. For borrowers continuing to make payments, the full amount of their payment will be applied to the principal amount of their loan once all interest accrued prior to March 13, 2020, is paid. The Department is working closely with Congress to ensure all student borrowers, including those in income-driven repayment plans, receive needed support at this time.
As a leader in Educational Technology, our partner Gabbart Communications has the solution for schools needing to provide instructional material to students while learning at home. They are prepared to offer free licensing for their Wisdom Learning Management System for the remainder of the 2019/20 school year, with a nominal $2,000 for setup,16-hours of training, and ongoing support. Gabbart can quickly get schools up and running, train teachers, and provide content to students within the week. Yesterday, they met with dozens of school districts on a webinar to provide additional information on Wisdom LMS. You can view it at www.gabbart.com/covidlms
COVID-19 Assistance from Our Corporate Partners
Proximity Learning, Inc., An ESS Company
Our Why: To leverage technology as a means to Disrupt Education so that students are provided equitable opportunities to learn.
Our Mission: Equity of access to quality instruction from a certified educator.
What do Districts say about Virtual teachers: Click Here
Spanish Class Example: Click Here
How PLI does Science Labs: Click Here
AASPA 2019 Panel on Innovative Staffing Strategies: Click Here
Underwood Law Firm
Sara Leon Law
Click here to see all resources, including client alerts, sample board resolutions, and public ed COVID-19 guidelines.
Centers for Disease Control
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have published a webpage with Interim Guidance for Administrators of US K-12 Schools and Childcare Programs. Available for download on that webpage is a PDF document outlining considerations for school closure as well as cleaning and disinfection recommendations, FAQs for administrators, a checklist for teachers and parents, and tips on talking to children about COVID-19.
University Interscholastic League
Effective March 16, all University Interscholastic League (UIL) interscholastic competition is suspended through March 29 due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Texas.
Teacher Retirement System
Due to COVID-19 Prevention Measures, TRS has temporarily closed its Austin Headquarters; however, it will be “business as usual” in regard to all member services, including the telephone counseling center. TRS employees will work remotely, with some essential workers on-site.
ACT has rescheduled the April 4 national ACT test date to June 13, 2020, in response to concerns about the spread of COVID-19. Learn more.
The College Board has cancelled the May 2 SAT testing. Makeup exams for the May 14 testing (scheduled previously for March 28) are also cancelled. Registerd students will receive refunds. Learn more.
Texas State Capitol
The Texas Capitol building will be closed to the public starting 8:00AM on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.