As the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic become more severe, and strict measures are put into place in attempts to slow the course of the virus’ spread, Texas schools will need to find alternative ways to provide instruction to students. In the absence of state-mandated measures, districts are handling the situation differently. Teachers are faced with questions addressing issues ranging from curriculum to paychecks.

The answers to questions we've compiled do not constitute legal advice. The situation is changing rapidly, and key factors will differ from school district to school district. This information will be updated as new details emerge, but we encourage TCTA members with specific questions to call our staff attorneys at 888-879-8282. Members with general inquiries can submit them through the Ask-a-Lawyer portal.

What's New (3/27/20): A new question addresses virtual classrooms and privacy rights (click here). We added links for more TEA resources for continuing education amid closures. Find the new information here. We've also got guidance on graduation requirements (click here), and updated guidance on special education (click here).

In the sections below, you'll see dates next to each question noting when answers were posted and/or updated to help you stay informed.

Employment/Personnel Issues

Click here to see the answers to the questions below.

  1. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits? (posted 3/23/20)
  2. Are at-will employees eligible for unemployment benefits? (posted 3/20/20)
  3. I heard Congress passed coronavirus legislation, what’s in it? (posted 3/20/20, updated 3/25/20)
  4. Can a district pay employees to remain isolated at home to self-quarantine? (posted 3/20/20, updated 3/25/20)
  5. Has TEA said anything about employee pay? (posted 3/20/20)
  6. Can a district continue paying paraprofessionals and other employees subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act? (posted 3/20/20, updated 3/25/20)
  7. Can a board stop paying instructional employees who are on Chapter 21 contracts? (posted 3/20/20)
  8. Can a district cut a contract employee’s pay? (posted 3/20/20)
  9. Can a district add days of performance or extend required employee days? (posted 3/20/20)
  10. Depending on the length of school closures for students, must the board adjust the calendar to provide for 187 days of performance for a teacher? (posted 3/20/20)
  11. I’m in a district that has a merit pay plan based in part on student test scores. How will my district evaluate teachers now that STAAR testing has been canceled? (posted 3/20/20)

School Closure Issues

Click here to see the answers to the questions below.

  1. Is TEA telling districts when to close or reopen? (posted 3/20/20)
  2. Can a board add minutes to the school day for students to make up for lost days? (posted 3/20/20; updated 3/26/20)
  3. President Trump (and in some cases local officials) wants to limit groups of 10 people or more from gathering, can the school district make teachers meet? (posted 3/20/20)

Instruction During School Closure

Click here to see the answers to the questions below.

  1. Can a district require teachers to work from home (or from school) and instruct students online or prepare paper packets to be distributed along with meals? (posted 3/20/20)
  2. If I get called to go in to school, to, for example, plan online instruction or prepare and distribute instructional packets to parents, must I comply? What if I don’t feel safe? (posted 3/20/20)
  3. Are there any rules or guidelines on how to keep safe while we’re packing and distributing education packets? (posted 3/24/20)
  4. Can an employee who is immune-compromised or is otherwise at risk for severe complications of COVID-19 decline to report to work? (posted 3/24/20)
  5. Can an employee decline to report to work due to a lack of childcare for their own children resulting from school closures? (posted 3/24/20)
  6. Has the commissioner addressed procedures for continuing education during school closures? (posted 3/20/20; updated 3/26/20 with links to more TEA resources)
  7. What can I do for my students who don’t have Internet access and/or appropriate technology to do home-based education? (updated 3/23/20)
  8. If I work from home and use my own technology, do my communications with students, parents, and others create public records and make me a temporary custodian of public records subject to the Texas Public Information Act? (posted 3/20/20)
  9. How can I ensure privacy and security while I’m teaching remotely? (posted 3/24/20)
  10. What kind of resources are there for helping me teach my classes remotely? (posted 3/20/20)
  11. Do virtual classrooms violate the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act? (posted 3/27/20)
  12. If a district or charter closes for an extended period of time, must the district provide ESL or bilingual services for English language learners? (posted 3/24/20)
  13. If a district or charter provides for students in regular education classes to continue instruction online or through paper packets, must the district or charter also provide a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) for special education and 504 students? (updated 3/23/20)
  14. Should school districts continue to provide services, or conduct evaluation activities during mandatory school closures or shelter in place orders? (posted 3/26/20)
  15. Should school districts continue to provide services to students served by special education who are already receiving homebound services due to a significant health concern? (posted 3/26/20)
  16. What flexibility do LEAs have in the process required to adjust an individual student’s existing IEP in times of emergencies such as the COVID 19 pandemic? (posted 3/23/20)
  17. If a district or charter closes for an extended period of time to address the COVID-19 outbreak, must the district provide services for students protected by IDEA or Section 504? (posted 3/20/20)
  18. If a student has been referred for potential special education eligibility and school has closed, are the federal/state required timelines for evaluation still in effect? (posted 3/24/20)
  19. Are school districts still held to the 30 calendar day timeline requirements regarding initial eligibility determination, IEP, and placement decision ARD committee meetings upon completion of a Full and Individual Initial Evaluations in times of emergencies such as the COVID 19 pandemic? (posted 3/24/20)
  20. Should ARD committees move forward with special education eligibility decisions if an Full and Individual Initial Evaluation (FIIE) has not yet been completed due to concerns over the current COVID-19 pandemic response? (posted 3/26/20)
  21. What if a student’s annual Admission Review and Dismissal (ARD) date is not met due to school closures or other COVID 19 pandemic response related issues? (posted 3/24/20)

TEA COVID-19 Support & Guidance

Click here to see the answers to the questions below.

  1. What resources has the commissioner provided? (posted 3/20/20)
  2. Is TEA waiving certification renewal requirements right now? (posted 3/25/20)
  3. Will I still receive an appraisal this year? (posted 3/25/20)
  4. Must students meet the 90% attendance rule in order to pass a class this semester? (posted 3/20/20)
  5. What about student assessment/grade level promotion/graduation requirements? (posted 3/20/20; updated 3/26/20)
  6. What about AP classes and exams? (posted 3/24/20)

Future Education Issues

Click here to see the answer to the question below.

  1. Will our schools have enough money next year or are we going to have widespread budget cuts and/or reductions in force (RIFs)? (posted 3/20/20)

TCTA members with specific questions should call our staff attorneys at 888-879-8282. Members with general inquiries can submit them through the Ask-a-Lawyer portal.