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.

2020-21 Health Guidance

Updated Sept. 16, 2020
Click here to see the answers to the questions below.

  1. Is there public health guidance available for the 20-21 school year?
  2. What about public health guidance to prevent the virus from entering the schools?
  3. What guidance is available for individuals who are confirmed or suspected with COVID-19?
  4. What kind of reporting requirements are there for test-confirmed cases of COVID-19?
  5. Is there guidance on masks/face coverings?
  6. How about guidance on social distancing and class size?
  7. What about visitors to schools?
  8. What about public health guidance for staffing and meetings?  
  9. Is the state doing anything about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for students and staff?
  10. Is there guidance for UIL sports?
  11. Is there guidance on training and conditioning activities that are non-UIL activities?

2020-21 Attendance

Updated Sept. 22, 2020
Click here to see the answers to the questions below.

  1. Is there any guidance regarding how students will attend school during the 2020-21 school year?
  2. Can the school district establish a phased return to on-campus instruction to ensure its public health procedures are fully up and running?
  3. If my community has high levels of spread of the virus, can the school board delay the start of school?
  4. Would a schedule where my district provides on-campus instruction Monday-Thursday and is fully remote every Friday meet the 75,600-minute requirement?
  5. If one of our campuses (or my entire school district) closes because of a confirmed positive case of COVID-19, can my school district decide to simply switch over to 100% remote instruction for the rest of the school year for that campus (or for my entire school district)?
  6. Can a school district decide to only offer remote instruction for a campus, or for all of the campuses?
  7. Can parents be required to commit to remote or on campus instruction?
  8. If we believe that a student would be better served via one of the remote instructional methods instead of via on-campus instruction, can my school district require that student to stay home to receive remote instruction?
  9. Can a school district offering a hybrid on-campus and remote instructional model (on and off campus on varying days/weeks) for different groups of students in several grades require students to participate in this hybrid model?
  10. Can school districts require a student to come on campus to complete assignments for certain electives while the student is being served through one of the remote instruction methods?
  11. Can school districts prevent a student from attending an on-campus lesson that is required for course credit if the student has chosen a remote instructional method?
  12. Can school districts prohibit students who have chosen to receive all their instruction through a remote instruction method from participating in extracurricular activities?
  13. How will attendance be taken and funding generated when using the synchronous instruction method?
  14. How will attendance be taken and funding generated when using the asynchronous instruction method?
  15. How can we be funded under asynchronous instruction for students who do not have internet access at home?
  16. Our district is not offering remote instruction. Are we required to submit an asynchronous plan just in case students need to be quarantined or a campus closes temporarily?
  17. What are the requirements for taking attendance when students are on campus, but instruction is being provided by a teacher who is not in the classroom with the students?
  18. Is synchronous instruction for PK-2 prohibited?
  19. Can a district use remote instruction for students who are absent for ANY reason (even something other than COVID-19 absences) and receive funding?
  20. Will at-home parent-led instruction count toward a district’s instructional minute requirements as part of either remote instruction method?
  21. If a student who is originally scheduled to receive instruction through the synchronous instructional method is not present at the designated official attendance time, could the student still be marked present for the day by engaging through the remote asynchronous method?
  22. Is there any guidance on how school districts may handle possible interruptions in the 2020-21 school year due to COVID-19, including adjusting school calendars?
  23. Is there guidance regarding adding school days?
  24. Do participating districts give grades for additional days?
  25. How will remote instruction in 2020-21 affect ADSY eligibility and half day requirements?
  26. If a charter school decides to change to a year-round calendar, will it be required to submit a non-expansion amendment?
  27. Is there any guidance to help districts that are having trouble locating certain students who are not participating in continuing instruction during the COVID-19 school closures?

2020-21 Instructional Models

Updated Sept. 16, 2020
Click here to see the answers to the questions below.

  1. Have there been announcements and/or guidance on planning for reopening schools in the fall?
  2. What remote instruction options are available in 2020-21? 
  3. Is synchronous instruction for PK-2 prohibited? 
  4. What kind of accountability will be in place for synchronous and asynchronous methods of instruction?
  5. What instructional resources are there for remote and in-person learning for the 2020-21 school year? 
  6. Are there any rules or guidelines on how to keep safe while we're packing and distributing education packets? 
  7. How can I ensure privacy and security while I'm teaching remotely? 
  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? 
  9. What are the federal student privacy law considerations when providing virtual instruction? 
  10. May non-students observe a virtual lesson?
  11. May a teacher record virtual classes and share the recording with students who are unable to attend? 

2020-21 Student Issues

Updated Sept. 28, 2020
Click here to see the answers to the questions below.

  1. Are districts required to continue identifying gifted/talented students during school closures due to COVID-19?
  2. Are school districts required to continue the selection process for GT placement?
  3. How do we document what we are providing in terms of GT services?
  4. Can districts require in-person testing on school or non-school days?
  5. During COVID-19, can TEA clarify that remote learning constitutes a student exceptionality for the purposes of identifying students and providing assessment modifications?
  6. Has TEA provided guidance for discipline and dress code for students in a virtual learning environment?
  7. What procedures apply if a district wants to place a student into a DAEP?
  8. Is it possible to dismantle our DAEP for the first semester?
  9. Are students in DAEPs eligible for remote learning?
  10. How should the instructional methods be decided upon for students assigned to a DAEP?
  11. Is it acceptable to have regular instructional teachers facilitate students in the remote DAEP settings as opposed to having a designated DAEP teacher?
  12. In remote settings, must a district continue to separate elementary and secondary students for DAEP classrooms?
  13. What about teaching DAEP students in the same classroom as non-DAEP students?
  14. What is the length-of-day requirements for the synchronous and asynchronous DAEP settings?
  15. What about class sizes in DAEPs?
  16. Are districts required to provide the same mental health supports to students in a remote DAEP as they are in an on-campus DAEP? 
  17. Are students placed into in-school suspension (ISS) eligible for remote learning?
  18. Are districts and charter schools still required to provide early notice to parents or guardians of grade 4 and grade 7 students identified to be at risk of failure on the first administration of the assessment required for grade advancement next year?
  19. Are there resources on behavioral support services?
  20. Has TEA provided guidance for pregnancy-related services?

STUDENT TESTING

  1. Is the student success initiative requiring students in 5th and 8th grade to pass the math and reading STAAR exams in effect in the 2020-21 school year?
  2. Is a district required to provide students failing the EOC exam in 2019-20 with accelerated instruction in the 2020-21 school year?
  3. What about required parent notification for students at risk of failure?
  4. Will there be any tests available for the 2020-21 school year to assess student understanding of the TEKS from the previous school year?
  5. Is there guidance on reading diagnostic instruments for 2020-21 school year, including waivers?
  6. Will there be an extended testing window for the STAAR and STAAR Alternate 2 exam for the 2020-21 school year?
  7. What about an extension for STAAR or STAAR Alternate testing for students who cannot access the online exam due to a required accommodation?
  8. When will the updated testing calendar be available?
  9. Will the TELPAS and TELPAS Alternate test administration windows also be extended?
  10. Has TEA provided guidance on grading?
  11. What about AP and IB classes and exams?
  12. What about college preparation assessments, including the SAT/ACT, and Texas Success Initiative Assessment examinations?
  13. What options are available for graduating and rising seniors who have been negatively impacted in the ability to demonstrate college readiness by COVID-19?

2020-21 Special Populations: English Learners

Updated Sept. 2, 2020
Click here to see the answers to the questions below.

  1. What methods of delivery are permissible for meeting the requirement of 120 hours of instruction for EL summer school, including into the 2020-21 school year?
  2. Is there flexibility for completing the 2019-20 bilingual education and ESL summer school requirements for English learners entering kindergarten and grade 1, including into the 2020-21 school year?
  3. What if a student was unable to complete all four domains of the 2019-20 TELPAS?
  4. What assistance is provided to districts who opt to use the LAS Links Assessment for 2019-20 EL reclassification?
  5. Can students within the same district have different 2019-20 EL reclassification criteria based on their situation?
  6. Is the 2019-20 annual bilingual education/ESL program evaluation for districts still required?
  7. What are the priority LPAC duties for the beginning of the 2020-21 school year?
  8. What continued adjustments to the LPAC responsibilities are available during the 2020-21 school year?
  9. With potential for on-campus and remote learning during the 2020-21 school year, are LPACs required to complete the English learner identification process within the required four calendar weeks of a student’s initial enrollment in Texas public schools?
  10. Can a student be placed in a bilingual education or ESL program while English learner identification is pending?
  11. If a student’s prekindergarten placement is dependent upon English learner eligibility, can the student be placed in prekindergarten while English learner identification is pending?
  12. Can a district administer the Home Language Survey (HLS) remotely?
  13. Is there any guidance regarding instructional design for English Language Learners in the 2020-21 school year in light of the pandemic’s likely effect during the school year?
  14. If a district or charter closes for an extended period of time, must the district provide ESL or bilingual services for English Language Learners?
  15. Must a school district that is operating remotely provide language accommodations for ELs in content classes?
  16. May federal funds be used for supplemental hardware or software that is designed specifically for English Learners?
  17. May Title III funds be used to train teachers to use new online platforms and software designed for ELs? Does that training need to be limited to training EL teachers or may the school district include all teachers who have ELs in their classes?
  18. What are the allowable uses of state bilingual education allotment and federal Title III funds?

Click here for more about instructional continuity for special education students.

2020-21 Special Education

Updated Aug. 28, 2020
Click here to see the answers to the questions below.

  1. How and should ARD/504 committees address least restrictive environment in all the possible learning environments (in-person, remote, hybrid) for 2020-21?
  2. What other issues should the ARD committee be addressing for 2020-21?
  3. 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?
  4. Should school districts continue to provide services, or conduct evaluation activities during mandatory school closures or shelter in place orders?
  5. 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?
  6. Is a shift to remote learning considered a change of placement?
  7. If a child receives instructional services in a self-contained placement during on-campus learning, would revision to the services be needed if all learning occurs remotely?
  8. If a child needs a change in special education services and such changes would equate to a non commensurate school day for the child, would this need to be included in the IEP?
  9. How can special education and related services, as documented in the IEP, be provided during remote or hybrid instruction?
  10. Can we use IDEA funds to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) or other pandemic related specialty equipment for students served by special education?
  11. How should districts handle situations in which family members do not respond to communications or respond to families who have indicated that they will not be able facilitate the distance learning options being offered?
  12. Is there guidance on providing occupational and physical therapy to students while schools are closed?
  13. Is there guidance on providing speech language therapy services to students while schools are closed?
  14. If a paraprofessional (i.e., instructional aide) works with a child remotely, does this time count toward IEP service minutes?
  15. If a child fails to make progress when accessing instruction remotely with the current IEP services, would the ARD committee be required to revise the IEP?
  16. Is there guidance on progress monitoring for special education students?
  17. 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?
  18. 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?
  19. Should ARD committees move forward with special education eligibility decisions if a Full and Individual Initial Evaluation (FIIE) has not yet been completed due to concerns over the current COVID-19 pandemic response?
  20. 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?
  21. What if the members of the ARD committee disagree about an IEP?
  22. If an ARD committee had begun the process of evaluating a student for exit from special education services prior to school closures, but is not able to complete the evaluation due to issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic response, are they allowed to move forward with exiting a student without completing the evaluation?
  23. Is there any guidance on providing extended school year services for special education students?
  24. How should school districts count contact hours for virtual instruction for ESY reimbursement submissions?
  25. What about compensatory services? 
  26. How is the need for compensatory services determined? 
  27. What resources are there to help with supporting at-home Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) Intervention?
  28. Are school districts required to continue services to students identified, and receiving services for dyslexia and currently being served by special education or under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973? 
  29. Will the timeline for the emergency rule requiring rising first grade students to participate in the required reading assessment within the first 20 school days be extended due to issues related to at home learning in the 20-21 school year?

2020-21 Personnel and Employment Issues

Updated Sept. 22, 2020
Click here to see the answers to the questions below.

  1. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?
  2. Are at-will employees eligible for unemployment benefits?
  3. I heard Congress passed coronavirus legislation, what’s in it?
  4. Can a district pay employees to remain isolated at home to self-quarantine?
  5. Can a district continue paying paraprofessionals and other employees subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act?
  6. Can a school district continue to pay salary and hourly-wage staff who are paid with federal grant funds that are on administrative leave or who are teleworking while the school district is closed due to COVID-19? 
  7. Can a board stop paying instructional employees who are on Chapter 21 contracts?
  8. Can a district cut a contract employee’s pay?
  9. If a district chooses to operate school for longer than a 10-month period by starting earlier than planned and/or by ending school later than planned, do the district’s teachers who have already signed contracts with that district for the school year now subject to adjustment have to work the days that exceed a 10-month period and, depending on the terms of the contracts at issue, the minimum 187 days of teacher service?
  10. Can a district add days of performance or extend required employee days?
  11. How should districts account for teachers’ minimum salary schedule if days are added to the calendar?
  12. Do student/teacher ratio rules still apply during additional calendar days?
  13. 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? 
  14. Can districts use federal grant funds to pay employee salaries for staff, who were not previously paid with federal funds, who are now conducting grant responsibilities due to COVID-19?
  15. How will districts document extra-duty pay for tutors, i.e., teachers outside their normal contracted hours, when student sign-in sheets are not available?
  16. Can ESSA federal funds pay for paraprofessionals to obtain teacher certification? Is there any additional flexibility in this area?
  17. What do I do if my district directs me to return to my school building and my health puts me at risk for contracting COVID-19?
  18. Can my district require me to share my cellphone or home phone number with students and parents while we work from home?
  19. Is there reimbursement for AP/IB teacher training during 2019-20?

CERTIFICATION & APPRAISAL

  1. Will certification requirements for special education personnel be extended or waived for the 2020-21 school year due to cancelation of certification tests by TEA?
  2. Is there any flexibility for educators serving on emergency permits?
  3. Will TEA extend the Texas one-year certificate for out-of-state educators who have been unable to obtain a standard certificate because of COVID-19?
  4. How will Texas handle the review of out-of-state credentials this year, given the effects of COVID-19 and its impact on testing and certification?
  5. How are educator certification testing vendors providing for tests that were cancelled due to COVID-19?
  6. Will there be any consideration given to providing some flexibility for currently certified teachers who are trying to add a certification?
  7. What about edTPA testing for candidates enrolled in educator preparation programs?
  8. What about requirements for certification for candidates currently enrolled in educator preparation programs (EPPs)?
  9. Will requirements for intern certification be extended or waived?
  10. Who is eligible for the new Waiver Intern (WINT) certificate?
  11. Are candidates who have not passed their supplemental exam eligible to obtain an intern certificate for the supplemental area? For example, can a candidate who has passed Core Subjects EC-6 but not yet passed the ESL Supplemental be issued a WINT for just the ESL Supplemental?
  12. Has TEA provided guidance on other requirements for internship, clinical teaching, and practicum?
  13. What constitutes a virtual school setting? Does this mean that clinical teaching can be completed using simulations?
  14. Does the field supervisor need to be physically present with the candidate when the observation occurs?
  15. What actions should be taken if a teacher who was on the district’s 2019-20 bilingual education exception or ESL waiver is unable to complete the appropriate certification?
  16. Has the requirement for prekindergarten teachers to have an “additional qualification” for High Quality Pre-K been changed due to COVID-19?
  17. Will I still receive an appraisal this year?
  18. Do educator appraisal waivers have to be approved by site-based committees before getting approved by the board?
  19. Will all districts follow the same T-TESS procedures this year? 
  20. Can superintendents adjust appraisal rules? 
  21. If my district gets a waiver, does that mean I will not have an evaluation this year? 
  22. How will school closures affect appraisal systems that support financial rewards for teachers based on student performance? 
  23. How will school closures affect the student growth component of T-TESS? 
  24. Will the agency waive the G/T professional development requirements for the 2020-21 school year?

2020-21 Funding and Budget Issues

Updated Sept. 22, 2020
Click here to see the answers to the questions below.

  1. May districts use migrant funds to provide migrant students with food and toiletries during the pandemic?
  2. Will our schools have enough money next year or are we going to have widespread budget cuts and/or reductions in force (RIFs)?
  3. Can high school students who are served fully on-campus or through a hybrid on-campus plan receive full-day funding if they attend school for 240 minutes each day? 
  4. What funding is available under the federal CARES Act? 
  5. Is FEMA reimbursement available to districts for COVID-19 expenses?
  6. Where can I find the ESSER grant entitlement amounts available through the federal CARES Act that my district will receive and what are the terms? 
  7. Will the ESSER funding (CARES Act) allow districts to pay for the direct costs incurred for planning and mitigation of the coronavirus pandemic such as, but not limited to, additional technology, hot spots for internet service, costs of distance learning, and cleaning of buildings to include staff time and supplies? 
  8. Is there TEA guidance on ESSER funding (CARES Act) and paying district employees and contractors?
  9. Can a district pay for normal operating costs like utilities with ESSER grant money?
  10. What funding options are available for internet access, devices or technological materials for students or educators?
  11. May districts charge students for materials and devices to be used at home for remote instruction and what can a district do if materials are not returned in an acceptable condition?
  12. Will receiving ESSER (CARES Act) formula funds result in a loss of Foundation School Program (FSP) State Aid? 
  13. Will there be proration in the Foundation School Program for the 2020-21 school year? 
  14. Is all this CARES Act money from the feds going to supplement ADA funding flows or is it only to reimburse specific expenditures by specific schools? 
  15. Are we required to apply for the ESSER Grant? 
  16. Is the ESSER grant separate and in addition to regular formula (FSP) funding? And then the regular formula (FSP) funding will be part FSP/part ESSER?
  17. When will districts find out the amount of the ESSER reduction to their refined ADA? 
  18. How much reimbursement can we anticipate receiving under the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CARES Act)? 
  19. What is the timeline for requesting the reimbursement under the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CARES Act)? 
  20. Is the cost of printing curriculum packets a reimbursable COVID-related expense? 
  21. Are there unallowable costs under the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CARES Act)?