This page was updated on June 8, 2020.

  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. May parents travel from their homes to pick up distance learning packets and/or meals from public school facilities? (posted 4/3/20)
  4. Are there any rules or guidelines on how to keep safe while we’re packing and distributing education packets? (posted 3/24/20)
  5. 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)
  6. 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; updated 4/9/20)
  7. What resources are there for helping me teach my classes remotely? (posted 3/20/20; updated 6/2/20)
  8. What is the role teachers play in either the online or printed version of the Texas Home Learning Model, including grading? (posted 4/16/20)
  9. Which TEKS and high school courses are covered by the Texas Home Learning Model? (posted 4/16/20)
  10. What special populations are covered by the Texas Home Learning Model? (posted 4/16/20; updated 6/8/20)
  11. Are there additional resources for the summer and future to prepare students for the next academic year? (posted 4/16/20; updated 6/8/20)
  12. Has the commissioner addressed procedures for continuing education during school closures? (posted 3/20/20; updated 5/4/20)
  13. 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)
  14. 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)
  15. Can my district require me to share my cellphone or home phone number with students and parents while we work from home? (posted 3/30/20)
  16. How can I ensure privacy and security while I’m teaching remotely? (posted 3/24/20)
  17. What are the federal student privacy law considerations when providing virtual instruction? (posted 4/6/20)
  18. Do virtual classrooms violate the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act? (posted 3/27/20)
  19. May non-students observe a virtual lesson? (posted 4/6/20)
  20. May a teacher record virtual classes and share the recording with students who are unable to attend? (posted 4/6/20)

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.

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?

Yes, if the online instruction occurs during a day for which teachers receive compensation.

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?

These kinds of directives are occurring frequently as districts close facilities for instruction but want to try alternative education processes. Educators have been asked to come to school to plan for online instruction, to work in their classrooms and plan for not less than two hours per day to keep up with their performance days, and to come to school to prepare paper instructional packets to distribute to parents with free meals.

If you are being paid for the days, you should comply with the directive.

Mandatory social distancing rules adopted by city or county officials may, or may not, apply to school districts. TCTA has sent letters to school districts that are requiring employees to return to school, pointing out the hazards of requiring employees to return to work at this time and asking them to join the hundreds of other school districts that have made the decision to shut down their facilities for some period of time. Nothing in the law prevents employees from asking a district to adopt best practices to protect the health of employees. 

3. May parents travel from their homes to pick up distance learning packets and/or meals from public school facilities?

Per Gov. Greg Abbott’s March 31 order, Texanss may leave their homes to "obtain essential services." School-based food assistance programs and distance learning are essential services under the order. Therefore, parents may leave their homes to drop off homework and pick up distance learning packets, technology tools (laptops or other devices) to support distance learning, and/or meals from public school facilities. For more information, see TEA's Guidance on Educator and Staff Issues and Educator Evaluations and Non-renewal.

4. Are there any rules or guidelines on how to keep safe while we’re packing and distributing education packets?

Yes, TEA has released guidance that addresses several specific health and logistical issues. Click here to read it.

5. Can an employee who is immune-compromised or is otherwise at risk for severe complications of COVID-19 decline to report to work?

Employees who are more susceptible to the most severe complications of COVID-19 may be able to use leave as provided in local policy and federal and state law. Some employees may be entitled to Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave based on medical certification (see expanded provisions for paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act). Other employees might be able to work with accommodations outlined by a health professional in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The ‘‘Families First Coronavirus Response Act" contains provisions related to leave and compensation for certain employees who have COVID-19, have family members with the disease, quarantine by medical orders, or self-quarantine. For information about the new law, click here.

6. Can an employee decline to report to work due to a lack of childcare for their own children resulting from school closures?

The "Families First Coronavirus Response Act" provides that an employee caring for a son or daughter whose school or place of care is closed, or whose childcare provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions can be eligible for two weeks of paid sick leave followed by 10 weeks of unpaid job protected leave (thereby covering the 12 weeks otherwise applicable under the FMLA).

If the employee needs to take off more than 10 days in order to care for his/her family member because of the public health emergency (as opposed to the employee being sick themselves) then the employee is entitled not only to the two weeks of paid leave but also an additional 10 weeks of paid leave at two-thirds their salary (subject to some caps). These benefits are to be in addition to whatever leave the employee would otherwise be entitled to receive from his employer.

However, according to Department of Labor regulations, an employee may not take paid sick leave or paid expanded FMLA leave to care for his or her son or daughter unless, but for a need to care for the son or daughter, the employee would be able to perform work for his or her employer, either at the employee’s normal workplace or by telework. An employee caring for his or her son or daughter may not take paid sick leave or paid expanded FMLA leave where the employer does not have work for the employee.

A NOTE OF CAUTION: There are security and privacy concerns surrounding remote services and software, so teachers should read this before setting up a system for online learning.

7. What resources are there for helping me teach my classes remotely?

Your district should provide you with any necessary software or app recommendations regarding the logistics of communicating with your students. They may also provide lesson plans or other curriculum material. The Region 10 Education Service Center has compiled PK-12 content-area resources that you may find useful, and other service centers may also have similar materials. 

Additionally, TCTA has compiled a list of resources for teaching online that can be viewed here.

TEA has a list of Free Online Professional Development Resources and Webinars (new as of 5/28/20).

The PBS At-Home Learning Initiative makes available current and upcoming television programming schedules that have been modified to complement instruction currently happening at home:

TEKS-aligned supplemental materials, including interactive lessons and media galleries, can be found online at PBSLearningMedia.org. These resources are free and available to anyone with internet access. Districts and educators interested in learning more about PBS teacher account features can find additional information in the Educator Resource Guide.

In addition, the Texas Resource Review – Resource Finder allows educators and districts to find instructional materials or resources that match your instructional model and needs.

TEXAS HOME LEARNING MODEL
In response to requests for a “plug and play” at-home learning model that educators and parents can use to continue instruction for students while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 virus, TEA launched the Texas Home Learning Model. Phase 1, focused on continued instruction for students through the end of the school year, includes comprehensive 8-week learning plans and instructional materials for grades Pre-K through high school, in both digital and print versions. Each of the grade-level learning plans include weekly lesson plans with daily schedules identifying specific activities for each subject, student learning goals, and digital and downloadable printable instructional materials. 

The Texas Home Learning Model is completely optional for districts to use, and districts can adopt it wholesale for use, or can modify the grade-level packets to tailor them to local needs, practices and objectives. Districts adopting the model wholesale can use TEA’s statewide printing service, which will send printed packets directly to families of students in the district, for which districts will pay a per-student fee. School districts may customize Texas Home Learning packets and decide on alternative printing options. Multiple ESCs across the state have the capacity to support statewide printing

For high school students, although the Home Learning Model packets for each grade level will include only those courses typically taken by students in that grade level, families will be able to access downloadable packets by course on the website if they need access to a course not included in their packet (e.g. a ninth grader taking World History).

8. What is the role teachers play in either the online or printed version of the Texas Home Learning Model, including grading?

Teachers play an important role in supporting learning for students in Texas home learning. Guidance for teachers can be found in the “I’m a Teacher” section of the Texas Home Learning website.

All grading and progress monitoring policies should be determined by the district, and no state level progress monitoring requirements are included as a part of the Texas Home Learning model. TEA does not require student packets be returned to teachers for the purposes of grading or any state-level requirement. However, TEA seeks to provide guidance to teachers on how they can monitor the progress of students for the purpose of enhancing learning and support. A set of progress monitoring considerations can be found in the Teacher Guidance section of the website. For additional information, review this guidance about grading and graduation during school closures on TEA’s COVID website.

9. Which TEKS and high school courses are covered by the Texas Home Learning Model?

The Texas Home Learning daily activities focus on providing support to help students review and learn foundational grade level skills aligned to the TEKS. However, the resource is not intended to be a continuation of any particular district’s annual scope and sequence. Also, references to specific TEKS will NOT be listed on the site given that resources are designed to be student and parent friendly to support at home learning. 

Texas Home Learning includes the following high school courses:

  • English I, II, III, IV
  • Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, PreCal
  • Biology, Chemistry, Physics
  • World Geography, World History, United States History, Government and Economics

At this time, Texas Home Learning does not include career and technology courses. TEA has provided resources for CTE in in section 2.1 of the Instructional Continuity Framework.

10. What special populations are covered by the Texas Home Learning Model?

Texas Home Learning resources will be supported with differentiated strategies and techniques to meet various needs of students with disabilities. Additionally, the Texas Home Learning website will be connected to related service providers that will serve the uniquely specialized needs of students with disabilities.

Texas Home Learning will have materials to support Spanish speaking students and parents that will be available in online and paper modalities. Specifically, all PreK – Grade 5 packets will be available in English and Spanish. Grade 6 – Grade 12 packets will have optional Spanish activities included in English Language Arts and Reading. TEA will notify districts when the Spanish materials are available to access.

TEA has partnered with AmplioSpeech to provide a platform for students in need of speech and language therapy. This platform can be accessed through the Texas Home Learning website.

However, Texas Home Learning does not include occupational therapy services. 

Additionally, TEA developed this resource for parents supporting students with special needs using the Texas Home Learning Packets: Section 504/Special Education supplement.

11. Are there additional resources for the summer and future to prepare students for the next academic year?

TEA is developing additional phases of the Texas Home Learning Model, and released an overview of Phase 2 on April 30. The third phase (2020-21 school year) will launch a new school year in situations where home learning is continued into the fall, including preparations for the start of school year (or at any point during school year) to follow full-year scope and sequence for an indefinite timeline. 

Texas Home Learning Phase 2.0 (2020 Summer Learning in Texas)

Districts have the option to use Phase 2 to engage students in summer learning and help mitigate learning loss from COVID-19 disruptions. Districts may decide to provide resources without structured summer school. Additionally, summer school expectations must be feasible for parents and families to implement.

According to TEA, Phase 2 was designed for a light touch by teachers and simple implementation for parents making it an easy plug and play resources to support during summer. Phase 2 includes the following:

  • Learning plans and schedules shortened to 4 weeks, organized by subject, and simplified for parents
    • Scope & sequence designed for 4-week summer program with additional content available for extension or longer schedules
    • Learning schedules organized by subject area for district prioritization of summer learning goals
    • Instructions simplified to allow for quick start by parents
    • Select answer keys available to district personnel for quick student progress monitoring (TEA currently evaluating availability)
    • Several sample schedule options for districts to choose when planning and launching summer learning
  • Sample Schedules provided for districts to choose daily or weekly plans for summer learning opportunities.
  • Learning packets organized by content area for districts customization of areas of focus for summer learning
  • Packets posted in edit-friendly formats and guidance provided to districts for packet customization
  • Matrix of special education supports within specific online curriculum programs in Texas Home Learning

Additionally, based on the experience with Phase 1, TEA is providing improved ELAR Options for Districts and Students consisting of curated ELAR information and options to assist districts in review and adoption of high quality ELAR materials, available in both print and digital formats.

  • Anchor texts and text sets available from curated and organized vendor list for deeper ELAR engagement and access to TEA-negotiated prices and services
  • Phonics instruction packages for early learners available from curated and organized vendor list with access to TEA-negotiated prices and services

To see more about TEA-negotiated reading language arts extension packets, click here

TEA provided an updated Texas Home Learning 2.0: Text Overview (05/14/20) that highlighted TEA’s partnership with Renaissance to provide Texas students FREE access to thousands of digital books and daily news articles for Summer 2020. Click here for more.

Additionally, TEA released a Texas Home Learning 2.0 Preparing to Use Texas Home Learning webinar (05/27/20) and powerpoint with more information.

TEA’s professional learning and supports for teachers for Texas Home Learning is available on TEA's professional learning page.

12. Has the commissioner addressed procedures for continuing education during school closures?

Yes, the commissioner has released instructional continuity framework Resources and an Instructional Continuity FAQ. TEA recognizes many districts may have already established a home learning model for their schools and families, so resources on this site are available to help districts as they see fit. 

Instructional Continuity Framework Overview 
Guidance includes a framework to launch “at-home schools” that maximize the amount of instructional time for students this school year and support student mastery of grade level standards. School districts must provide instruction in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for the required curriculum. Every effort should be made to ensure that sufficient time is provided for teachers to teach and for students to learn all the TEKS for each grade level and subject. TEA also created this website with Resources for Learning Continuity.

Additionally, TEA on April 23 released an Instructional Continuity Detailed Guidance for Students with Disabilities to help districts launch “at-home schools” that maximize instructional time for students and support students with disabilities who require special education support to access academic content to maximize their learning. (Click here for more information.)

Provides district leaders with guidance and resources that are aligned to each planning phase in the Instructional Continuity Planning Framework. The guide includes additional explanation about the planning activities outlined in the tool, including guiding questions, suggested people to involve in each phase, and tips and recommendations for implementation. Helpful guidance includes:

  • District-level curriculum and instruction: generates list of content-specific and general instructional tools, programs, platforms, and resources for training support; include district-level special education and EL staff
  • Instructional materials coordinator: develops list of adopted products that could be leveraged for at-home learning; contacts publisher representative to identify additional services/support available
  • Campus-level instructional leaders, coaches, or teachers: provides information about currently used tools, programs, and platforms; identifies needs based on campus and teacher expectations and systems
  • Instructional Technology: provides information about use of tools, programs, and platforms to inform decisions; facilitates continuous collaboration and provides support in the transition to at-home learning

Instructional Continuity Project Management Guidance 
The phases of the framework include:

Phase 1: Conduct Landscape Analysis; (New resources added 4/1/20)

TEA Resources:

  • Texas Gateway: includes TEKS guide, TEKS aligned resources, professional development learning, training and resources, PBS literacy and development resources (link added 4/6/20)

Phase 2: Determine At-Home Instructional Model and Monitoring; (New resources added 4/8/20)

TEA Resources:

Phase 3: Operationalize At-Home Model; (New resources added 4/1/20)

TEA Resources:

Phase 4: Provide Monitoring and Support (New resources added 4/1/20)

Guidance Documents

In the current environment, great monitoring also helps diagnose whether newly implemented remote instructional methods and materials are successful.  Assessing student mastery allows educators to adjust and adapt methods and materials as appropriate. Effective monitoring includes determining grades for students and determining whether students have demonstrated proficiency in knowledge and skills cataloged in the student expectations or other subject-specific standards. When grading student work, teachers may consider factors such as work ethic, engagement, and participation in addition to student performance.

Suggested Staff Support
The primary staff members who could be involved in this planning are district and campus leaders. As much as possible under current circumstances, leverage teacher input. Throughout the planning process, ensure that a clear owner is assigned to each task.

  • District: establish guidelines for campus leaders and teachers regarding regular check-in expectations; develop process for identifying training needs and establishing system for requesting district-level support
  • Campus: communicate expectations with staff and set schedule for check-ins; determine how teacher progress will be monitored and needs identified; share template for check-in and model use or adjustments to current process.
  • Teachers: leverage check-ins as a system for raising concerns and requesting support; staff shares feedback to improve system to better meet individual needs

Additional Guidance

13. What can I do for my students who don’t have Internet access and/or appropriate technology to do home-based education?

It will be your district’s responsibility to develop a plan for educating these students. TEA guidance notes that districts can provide “low-tech” solutions such as workbooks and worksheets, but also has developed resources to help districts with remote learning, both technology- and paper-based. 

14. 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?

If your district provides the communication network and/or its servers back up the information, an educator does not have to preserve the information on a personal device as a temporary custodian of public information.

15. Can my district require me to share my cellphone or home phone number with students and parents while we work from home?

A district cannot require a person to disclose their personal phone number. A law that the governor signed following the last legislative session included a TCTA-initiated provision allowing teachers not to disclose their private phone numbers to students. Most cellphones, in their settings or control functions allow the user to block their number to the person being called. (Information on how to enable this feature on your phone can be found online.)

16. How can I ensure privacy and security while I’m teaching remotely?

As you work remotely, it is important to ensure protection of networks, devices, programs, and data from attack, damage, or unauthorized access.

Working with remote employees demands that schools pay close attention to the technology and security they use. Data security is a liability with remote employees. Districts should have a telework plan and policy that addresses:

  • Eligibility — who is eligible
  • Availability — establish schedule guidelines
  • Responsiveness — implement specific rules for response time
  • Productivity measurements — establish how an employee's productivity will be measured
  • Equipment — establish guidelines for equipment standards; including secure laptops and other work devices with authorized antivirus and security software, and Virtual Private Networking and remote access software.
  • Physical environment — establish and approve remote location
  • Security and confidentiality — establish security guidelines, including strict password policies, local and centralized data backup, and videoconferencing.

Additional tips to safeguard users:

  • When dealing with remote teams, you’re obviously faced with the challenge of not being able to sit in the same room with your employees. In this case, it’s best to go to the next solution in line: video conferencing such as Zoom or GoToWebinar.
  • Before entering your UserID credentials on any website, make sure the URL displayed is a valid URL.
  • Examine links in emails by hovering over them before clicking (look for expected URLs).
  • Examine the From field and the email address displayed (look for @school.isd.net or known business partners).
  • Be extra suspicious about phone numbers included in emails. (Use a known good phone number to verify the originality of the sender.)
  • Don’t open attachments if you are not certain of the sender and the content.
  • When Windows updates are available, install them immediately for all security and critical patches.
  • Forward questionable emails that make it to your Inbox (not the Junk folder) to a security helpdesk for review.

Additional guidance from TEA on cybersecurity may be accessed here.

17. What are the federal student privacy law considerations when providing virtual instruction?

According to TEA’s April 2 Privacy and FERPA Considerations for Virtual Instruction, protections provided by the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act apply equally to instruction taking place in a virtual environment as in a brick and mortar facility. FERPA protects the privacy of personally identifiable information (PII) in students’ education records.

Under FERPA, an educational agency or institution may not disclose PII from students’ education records, without consent, unless the disclosure meets an exception under FERPA. A school district is prohibited from disclosing PII without the written consent of a parent or eligible student, with limited exception, one of which is the “school official” exception which permits disclosure of PII to other officials, including teachers, within the school district whom the school district has determined to have a “legitimate educational interest.” The “school official” exception can apply to a 3rd party vendor providing online services if the vendor meets certain requirements.

TEA generally advises that school districts should develop policy and guidance for teachers on the storage, security and maintenance of recorded instructional video sessions where students were present.

18. Do virtual classrooms violate the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act?

The U.S. Department of Education recently released guidance that remote classes do not violate the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in the same manner that allowing a parent to observe a class does not violate FERPA. See the guidance, which has the following provisions:

There are also additional resources on related topics under FERPA, including classroom observations, use of emails, videos, and other virtual learning tools. Under FERPA, the determination of who can observe a virtual classroom, similar to an in-person classroom, is a local school decision as teachers generally do not disclose personally identifiable information from a student’s education record during classroom instruction. FERPA neither requires nor prohibits individuals from observing a classroom. 

Note that the district will have some responsibility with the provider of the virtual services under FERPA to have an agreement that will protect confidential student data, but that is an issue for the district.

Additionally, according to TEA’s Instructional Continuity FAQ (updated April 2), FERPA permits a school district to use video conferencing or other virtual learning software applications to hold classes. Educational agencies and institutions may disclose, without consent, education records, or personally identifiable information (PII) contained in those records, to the providers of such a service or application under FERPA’s “school official” exception. Additionally, compliance with FERPA does not preclude convening groups made up exclusively of students served by special education in virtual classroom settings.

19. May non-students observe a virtual lesson?

According to TEA’s April 2 Instructional Continuity FAQ, assuming that during the virtual lesson, personally identifiable information from student education records is not disclosed, FERPA would not prohibit a non-student from observing the lesson.

20. May a teacher record virtual classes and share the recording with students who are unable to attend?

According to TEA’s April 2 Instructional Continuity FAQ, the answer is yes:

FERPA does not prohibit a teacher from making a recording of the lesson available to students enrolled in the class, provided the video recording does not disclose PII from student education records during a virtual classroom lesson or appropriate written consent is obtained if PII from the education record is included. 

TEA advises that school district vendor agreements should be reviewed to determine whether video recordings of virtual lessons are or will be maintained as education records beyond the period of instruction, and if so, how, and by whom (see TEA’s April 2 Privacy and FERPA Considerations for Virtual Instruction).

Related information: See our FAQ on Special Populations instruction during school closures.

Click here to return to the main COVID-19 FAQ page.