Fort Worth parents: If you’re trying to figure out how this school year will work, and if students will be in class or required to learn online, you’re not alone.
But now Fort Worth school officials are asking for your help.
They are holding an emergency online meeting at 8 a.m. Thursday to talk about plans to reopen schools.
The school board is asking teachers, parents, community leaders and students to participate and weigh in on what should happen, and how it should work, as coronavirus cases continue to add up locally and across the country.
“We want to hear your thoughts, beliefs & feelings,” Jacinto Ramos Jr., president of the school board, wrote on Twitter.
Fort Worth school officials have not yet decided if they will stick with online-only classes or allow in-person classes in mid-August, Superintendent Kent P. Scribner said during a virtual town hall Tuesday night.
Anyone may watch the meeting on Spectrum Channel 192, AT&T Channel 99, Zoom, or on the Fort Worth ISD Live YouTube channel. The link for Zoom access is https://esc11.zoom.us/j/92449250562.
Anyone wanting to talk to the board during the public comment portion of the meeting may register to do that by calling 817-814-1956 until 8 a.m. Thursday, spokesman Clint Bond said.
The news of this meeting comes one day after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a non-binding guidance that says public health authorities may not close schools “for the sole purpose of preventing future COVID-19 infections.”
That’s nullified what Tarrant County’s top health officials did June 21, when they issued an order requiring the first six weeks of school to be online only because of the growth in coronavirus cases. Health authorities said their goal was to keep students at home until several weeks after the Labor Day holiday to avoid a potential spike in cases that could spread through schools.
“Education of our children is an essential Texas value and there is no current statewide order prohibiting any school from opening,” Paxton said in a statement Tuesday. “While local health authorities may possess some authority to close schools in limited circumstances, they may not issue blanket orders closing all schools on a purely preventative basis.
“That decision rightfully remains with school system leaders.”
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley has said the three Tarrant County health authorities who signed last week’s order — Catherine Colquitt, Cynthia Simmons and Steve Martin — have been told that their order has been suspended because it “exceeded the scope of their statutory authority.”
And in the wake of Paxton’s letter, the Texas Education Agency said that remote instruction will no longer be funded if a local health authority issues a blanket order for schools in the area to close, as it “does not constitute a legally issued closure order.” The agency noted that other exceptions to allow state funding for remote instruction may apply, such as the option of limiting the number of students allowed on campus for the first four weeks if approved by a local school board.
The Fort Worth school district released a 23-page document the day before the public health order was issued that laid out preliminary plans for the fall 2020 school year.
The plan was to provide virtual and in-person learning for students while requiring students and staff to wear masks while on campus.
Fort Worth officials have said school will start Aug. 17.