According to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, local health officials are unable to use their authority to close campuses to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They can only shutter facilities after an outbreak, undermining their ability to protect their communities. Abbott statement is in line with earlier nonbinding guidance released by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Abbott went on to say that districts could apply to keep their campuses closed beyond the eight-week max allowed by the Texas Education Agency if they felt they needed to, and that TEA would review extended closure waiver requests on a “case-by-case basis.”
This week Abbott promised schools “will have their [personal protective equipment] needs met at no cost” to them, with the state picking up the tab. During a press conference staged in a San Antonio warehouse Abbott said the state has already distributed to schools more than 59 million masks, more than 24,000 thermometers, more than 565,000 gallons of hand sanitizer and more than 500,000 face shields.
TSTA maintains that the governor has the responsibility to stop passing the buck to local school boards on when to reopen and should mandate that no district start in-person instruction before Sept. 8, and then only when it is safe to do so.
“The governor’s optics today on PPE is a drop in the bucket compared to what will be needed if schools are forced to reopen before it’s safe,” the union’s president, Ovidia Molina, said in a statement. “59.4 million masks are roughly 11 masks per student. That might get students through the first week of school.”