This page was updated on Oct. 20, 2020.

  1. Is there any guidance regarding how students will attend school during the 2020-21 school year? (8/13/20)
  2. Can the school district establish a phased return to on-campus instruction to ensure its public health procedures are fully up and running? (9/29/20)
  3. If my community has high levels of spread of the virus, can the school board delay the start of school? (8/13/20)
  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? (8/13/20)
  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)? (8/13/20)
  6. Can a school district decide to only offer remote instruction for a campus, or for all of the campuses? (8/13/20)
  7. Can parents be required to commit to remote or on campus instruction? (8/13/20)
  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? (9/29/20)
  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? (8/13/20)
  10. Can my district require students that are currently receiving remote instruction to come on campus periodically for some academic purpose? (10/20/20)
  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? (8/13/20)
  12. Can school districts prohibit students who have chosen to receive all their instruction through a remote instruction method from participating in extracurricular activities? (8/13/20)
  13. Is my school system required to offer remote instruction? (10/20/20)
  14. Are there specific requirements districts must follow to discontinue providing remote instruction as an instructional model? (10/20/20)
  15. Can my district provide remote instruction to certain categories of students or only under certain circumstances? (10/20/20)
  16. If a student receiving remote instruction is struggling academically, with attendance, or in any other way, can a district require the individual student to come on campus? (10/20/20)
  17. How will attendance be taken and funding generated when using the synchronous instruction method? (9/29/20)
  18. How will attendance be taken and funding generated when using the asynchronous instruction method? (9/29/20)
  19. Are teachers required to post remote asynchronous attendance each day or can campus clerks assist in posting attendance for students who engage through the remote asynchronous instruction method? (9/29/20)
  20. How can we be funded under asynchronous instruction for students who do not have internet access at home? (9/3/20)
  21. 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? (9/22/20)
  22. 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? (8/13/20)
  23. Is synchronous instruction for PK-2 prohibited? (8/13/20)
  24. Can a district use remote instruction for students who are absent for ANY reason (even something other than COVID-19 absences) and receive funding? (8/13/20)
  25. Will at-home parent-led instruction count toward a district’s instructional minute requirements as part of either remote instruction method? (8/13/20)
  26. 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? (8/13/20)
  27. 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? (8/13/20)
  28. Is there guidance regarding adding school days? (8/13/20)
  29. Do participating districts give grades for additional days? (8/13/20)
  30. How will remote instruction in 2020-21 affect ADSY eligibility and half day requirements? (8/13/20)
  31. If a charter school decides to change to a year-round calendar, will it be required to submit a non-expansion amendment? (8/13/20)
  32. 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? (8/27/20)

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.

For more COVID-19 FAQs about 2020-21, click here

Attendance

Is there any guidance regarding how students will attend school during the 2020-21 school year?

Yes, TEA issued its SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment Guidance (updated 8/4/20), which includes numerous details about requirements for student attendance in the upcoming school year.

Included in the guidance is the requirement that, subject to certain exceptions listed below, on-campus instruction must be offered for all grades served by the campus every day for every student whose parents want them to access on-campus instruction for each day a campus is providing instruction given its instructional calendar. Exceptions include:

  • Remote only instruction provided by a full-time virtual campus operating under the TXVSN.
  • Remote only instruction provided because on-campus instruction is prohibited by an order issued by an entity, other than a school district, authorized to issue such an order under state law. Example includes a local public health authority authorized by Sections 81.082(a) and 121.024 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, and Sections 85.1(g) and 97.6(h) of the Texas, Administrative Code when measures are necessary to protect the public health. Note, however, the Texas Attorney General issued a guidance letter on July 28, 2020, that stated that “... local health authorities may not issue blanket orders closing all schools in their jurisdiction on a purely prophylactic basis.” Consequently, a blanket order closing schools does not constitute a legally issued closure order for purposes of funding solely remote instruction according to TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 8/4/20).
  • Remote only instruction provided any day a district closes a campus as a result of a confirmed COVID-19 case on campus, subject to certain limits.
  • Remote only instruction provided during a start-of-school transition period. This period can occur up through the first four weeks of the school year, with the option of extending four additional weeks by vote of the school board (as defined more fully below). During this transition period, districts can, if they choose to do so locally, limit access to on-campus instruction to facilitate a safe, effective return to on-campus instruction for students, teachers, and staff if all students have been provided the necessary devices and have connectivity to access those devices. Students who cannot participate in remote learning at home because of lack of broadband internet access or devices must still have access to on-campus instruction during this time.
  • Remote instruction as the only option for a subset of students as part of a high school hybrid plan. Specifically, for students in grades 9-12, school systems may establish a less-than-daily on campus attendance option to reduce the number of individuals on a campus at any one time and increasing the total number of students served in an on-campus setting in the school district, subject to the requirements described in this FAQ below.

If a school system believes it is best for the health and safety of students and staff to continue to restrict access to on-campus instruction, they must submit a board-approved waiver request to TEA to extend that transition window, up to four additional weeks. Teachers, staff and parents should be consulted about the transition plan before the waiver is submitted. All waivers are approved upon receipt.

During the extended period being requested with a waiver, at least some on-campus instruction must be provided each day. School districts are encouraged to prioritize on campus access during the transition window for students most academically or otherwise at risk who will benefit the most from an on campus instructional experience.

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 8/4/20), during the transition period and transition extension, districts can claim the number of operational minutes they would have claimed had school been operating normally even if they decide to provide less than a full day of on-campus instruction. This will allow districts to prioritize which students receive on-campus instruction during the transition period and allow LEAs to create daily on-campus schedules that provide the most benefit to both students and campuses as they prepare for larger scale on-campus instruction at the conclusion of the transition period.

School districts must offer sufficient on campus instruction in each grade PK-8 so that every parent has an on-campus attendance option each day for their student, except during school closures. School systems may establish a less-than-daily on campus attendance option for students in grades 9-12 to reduce the number of individuals on a campus at any one time and increasing the total number of students served in an on-campus setting in the school district. In the event there is not a daily on-campus attendance option in one or more of these grade levels, the school district must ensure that on-campus attendance is offered as part of the hybrid schedule at least 40% of the days in each grading cycle.

Can the school district establish a phased return to on-campus instruction to ensure its public health procedures are fully up and running?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 8/4/20), as part of a start-of-year transition period, for the first four weeks of the instructional calendar, and an additional four weeks if a waiver request is submitted by a school board, school districts may limit the number of students who otherwise access on campus instruction. This could be done by capacity limit by classroom across all grades, a limited number of grades starting by day, or some similar means, and could include being fully remote during this period if all students have been provided the necessary devices and have connectivity to access those devices. However, during this transition window, school districts are still required to provide on-campus instruction to all students from households without internet access or appropriate remote learning devices. Beyond access provided to those students without internet access or appropriate remote learning devices, districts are encouraged to prioritize on campus access during the transition window for students most academically or otherwise at risk who will benefit the most from an on campus instructional experience. During the extended period being requested with a waiver, at least some on-campus instruction must be provided each day.

Teachers, staff and parents should be consulted about the transition plan before the waiver is submitted. All waivers are approved upon receipt.

School systems that need more than the additional four-week extended transition window should email waivers@tea.texas.gov for information on requesting additional transition days. Any additional transition window will require board approval after preliminary TEA plan feedback has been received. Any transition window extension plan would have to include increasing levels of allowed on campus instruction. Note: Gov. Abbott’s Executive Order 30 describes certain areas of the state where certain business occupancy levels are raised to 75% and others that remain at 50%. The agency will take into consideration whether school systems are located in whole or in part in areas that remain at the 50% threshold when determining additional transition day waiver approval.

All parents who want on campus instruction must be provided that on-campus attendance for their students at the immediate conclusion of the transition period (as opposed to the end of the first grading period, when parents otherwise choose remote instruction). The mechanism to limit access during this period should be clearly communicated to families in advance. Also, when schools reopen a parent may request that their student be offered virtual instruction. If a parent who chooses virtual instruction wants their child to switch to an on-campus instructional setting, they can do so, but school systems are permitted to limit these transitions to occur only at the end of a grading period, if it will be beneficial to the student’s instructional quality. If a parent requests virtual instruction and the school does not offer it, the parent may enroll in another school that does offer it for transfer students.

If my community has high levels of spread of the virus, can the school board delay the start of school?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment Guidance (updated 8/4/20), local school boards in areas with high levels of community spread can change their school calendars to delay the start of schools. If a school system decides it is prudent to make additional adjustments to the instructional calendar after the school year starts, it has that authority as long as the instructional calendar satisfies the 75,600 operational minutes requirement.

School districts are allowed to apply for a waiver from TEA to receive funding while providing remote instruction during a school district-determined closure in addition to those that involve a confirmed case of COVID-19 on one of its campuses.

Would a schedule where my district provides on-campus instruction Monday-Thursday and is fully remote every Friday meet the 75,600-minute requirement?

Per TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 8/4/20), daily operational minutes are only included in the 75,600 operational minute calculation when on-campus instruction is being offered to all students who wish to attend school. In this example, no operational minutes would be earned on Friday because no on-campus instruction is taking place. An exception to this would be a high school campus operating under the hybrid schedule waiver. As long as some high school students were receiving on-campus instruction on a given day, the on campus operational minutes would apply for the high school’s schedule.

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)?

According to TEA, the answer is no. For any day a school district closes a campus as a result of a confirmed COVID-19 case on campus, remote instruction will be funded. However, campuses may only remain closed to on-campus instruction for up to five consecutive days (including the original closure day), while drawing funding for all students participating in remote instruction. A closure period does not end until the campus has reopened for on-campus instruction for at least one instructional day. 

In addition, remote only instruction may be provided because on-campus instruction is prohibited by an order issued by an entity, other than a school district, authorized to issue such an order under state law. Example includes a local public health authority authorized by Sections 81.082(a) and 121.024 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, and Sections 85.1(g) and 97.6(h) of the Texas, Administrative Code when measures are necessary to protect the public health. Note, however, the Texas Attorney General issued a guidance letter on July 28, 2020, that stated that “... local health authorities may not issue blanket orders closing all schools in their jurisdiction on a purely prophylactic basis.” Consequently, a blanket order closing schools does not constitute a legally issued closure order for purposes of funding solely remote instruction according to TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 8/4/20).

Can a school district decide to only offer remote instruction for a campus, or for all of the campuses?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 8/4/20), the answer is no as on-campus instruction must be offered for all students who want to attend on campus to be eligible to receive funding for remote instruction.

Although campuses cannot be solely remote (excluding full-time TXVSN campuses), exceptions include:

  • during COVID-19 closures as a result of a confirmed COVID-19 case on campus, subject to certain limits,
  • during the start-of-school transition period,
  • on-campus instruction is prohibited by an order issued by an entity, other than a school district, authorized to issue such an order under state law, and
  • for a subset of students as part of a high school hybrid plan.

Districts are allowed to apply for a waiver from TEA to receive funding while providing remote instruction during a school district-determined closure in addition to those that involve a confirmed case of COVID-19 on one of its campuses.

Can parents be required to commit to remote or on campus instruction?

Per TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 8/4/20), school districts may ask their parents to commit to either on campus or remote instruction for their students no earlier than two weeks before the start of the school year. School districts may survey parents prior to that period, but parents cannot be bound to the choice prior to two weeks before the start of the school year. In the event a parent chooses remote instruction for their child, a school district may, if it believes it is in the student’s educational interest, choose to limit the student’s return to an on-campus setting to occur only at the end of a grading period (e.g. 6-week or 9-week). However, school districts cannot require a student to remain in remote instruction for more than a single grading period. 

Note: Students who begin receiving remote instruction as a result of staying at home to isolate from COVID-19 exposure should be permitted to return to campus at the end of their isolation period, as opposed to the end of a grading period.

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?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 8/4/20), the answer is no. Unless a student is test-confirmed to have COVID-19, is symptomatic for COVID-19, or has been in close contact (being directly exposed to infectious secretions or being within 6 feet for a cumulative duration of 15 minutes, including with face coverings) with an individual test-confirmed as having the virus in the last 14 days, the student must be allowed to receive on-campus instruction, if that instructional setting is desired by the parent.

Except as may occur during the start-of-year transition period or on-campus instruction is prohibited by an order issued by an entity, other than a school district, authorized to issue such an order under state law, students receive remote instruction solely at the discretion of their parents or legal guardians. This start-of-year transition period can occur up through the first four weeks of the school year, with the option of extending four additional weeks by vote of the school board. Students who cannot participate in remote learning at home because of lack of broadband internet access or devices must still have access to on-campus instruction during this time.

In the event a parent chooses remote instruction for their child, a school district may, if the school district believes it is in the student’s educational interest, choose to limit the student’s return to an on-campus setting to occur only at the end of a grading period (e.g. 6-week or 9-week). However, school districts cannot require a student to remain in remote instruction for the entirety of a semester. Parents are not required to make this commitment more than two weeks prior to the beginning of any grading period.

Note: According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Public Health Guidance (updated 9/24/20), the definition of “close contact” is evolving and individual scenarios should be determined by an appropriate health agency, and additional factors like case/contact masking (i.e., both the infectious individual and the potential close contact have been consistently and properly masked), ventilation, presence of dividers, and case symptomology may affect this determination. In general, close contact is defined as: a. being directly exposed to infectious secretions (e.g., being coughed on); or b. being within 6 feet for a largely uninterrupted or sustained extended contact period throughout the course of a day of approximately 15 minutes; however, additional factors like case/contact masking (i.e., both the infectious individual and the potential close contact have been consistently and properly masked), ventilation, presence of dividers, and case symptomology may affect this determination. Either (a) or (b) defines close contact if it occurred during the infectious period of the case, defined as two days prior to symptom onset to 10 days after symptom onset. In the case of asymptomatic individuals who are test-confirmed with COVID-19, the infectious period is defined as two days prior to the confirming test and continuing for 10 days following the confirming test.

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?

According to TEA’s, SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 8/4/20), campuses must be open and providing on-campus instruction to a subset of students each day the district is planning to claim minutes toward the 75,600 operational minute requirement. Any district that pursues this hybrid option while not providing a daily on-campus offering for students who otherwise wish to attend on campus may do so after submitting a waiver request to TEA and should do so no later than two weeks prior to the first day of on-campus instruction. All waivers will be conditionally approved upon receipt but may be subject to further review by TEA.

Can my district require students that are currently receiving remote instruction to come on campus periodically for some academic purpose?

Per TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 10/15/20), districts can require students to come on campus to complete a required assignment, project, or exam for an elective course if the course requires assignments or exams that cannot be reasonably completed remotely even if some components could be taught virtually (e.g., welding). 

Some courses may require a student to obtain equipment from campus to complete coursework virtually. School districts must communicate which courses have on-campus requirements and notify parents and students before the start of the course that failure to complete the required on-campus assignments could cause the student to not be awarded course credit. This notification to ensures students have an option to select courses that can be completed remotely if desired.

Schools should consider organizing on-campus curricular requirements in groupings specific to students who are remote, so they come to campus separately and on a schedule that allows for travel from home. These students would need to be screened for COVID-19 and follow any other school requirements and practices consistent with practices for other students.

For other courses, districts can require students to come on campus to complete a required assessment that plays a significant role in determining class rank or is required for graduation/grade level promotion and cannot be reasonably or equitably administered remotely. In any case a student is required to come on campus, effort should be made to ensure the student is given an opportunity to make the visit with a maximum of social distancing and in compliance with other public health mitigation steps in place, including any mask requirements consistent with Executive Order GA-29 (7/2/20).

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?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 8/4/20), if school districts offers virtual instruction, they must offer all core (foundation) courses in an entirely virtual format and must ensure that a student is able to meet all statutory requirements, including the requirement that 40% of instructional time includes laboratory and field investigations for full course credit. For these required courses, school districts are not obligated to allow a student to optionally participate in on-campus components of the course if they are able to meet all course requirements virtually. The school district must ensure all labs can be conducted virtually or that students are provided with certain supplies and/or equipment to conduct the labs at home.

Can school districts prohibit students who have chosen to receive all their instruction through a remote instruction method from participating in extracurricular activities?

Per TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 8/4/20), school districts may develop a local policy that would exclude students who are learning remotely from all extracurricular activities if they choose to do so.

Is my school system required to offer remote instruction?

Per TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 10/15/20), school systems are not required to offer remote instruction to the general student population. Please note, however, that remote instruction may be required for individual students, if a particular student’s individualized education program or Americans with Disabilities Act accommodation requires remote instruction. For more information about considerations for students receiving special services, please see TEA’s SY 20-21 Special Education FAQ (updated 10/15/20).

Providing remote instruction to the general student population is a local decision and can be modified by the school district during the school year. Any parent may request that their student be offered virtual instruction from any school system that offers such instruction. However, this does not mean that school systems are required to provide remote instruction throughout the school year. If a parent requests virtual instruction and the school does not offer it, the parent may enroll in another school system that does offer it for transfer students.

Are there specific requirements districts must follow to discontinue providing remote instruction as an instructional model?

In its SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 10/15/20), TEA outlines requirements for districts to follow to discontinue remote instruction as an instructional model. If a district decides to discontinue providing remote instruction, it must give a 14-day notice to parents and notify parents of the option to transfer to another district for remote instruction. Those school systems that have discontinued remote instruction prior to the date of this clarification, even if remote instruction were discontinued without adequate advance notice, must still ensure parents are aware of their options to continue remote instruction by transferring to another school system.

Can my district provide remote instruction to certain categories of students or only under certain circumstances?

Per TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 10/15/20), a district may offer remote instruction to all of their students, or may target remote instruction to only certain students under the following circumstances:

  • Only for students who are sick or quarantining because of a positive COVID-19 test, COVID-19 diagnosis, COVID-19 symptoms, or close contact with a positive COVID-19 individual. Districts can also during this school year provide remote instruction to students who are sick with other illnesses but still able to participate in instruction.
  • Only for specific grade bands, such as all grade 3 students or all grades 5 and 6 students.
  • On a case-by-case basis for certain special education students and students with Section 504 accommodations. Please see TEA’s SY 20-21 Special Education FAQ (updated 10/15/20) for more information.

Additionally, certain non-core courses in secondary may only be offered in an on-campus setting, limiting student access to some remote instruction courses. For more information, see the Electives and Extracurricular section in TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 10/15/20).

If a student receiving remote instruction is struggling academically, with attendance, or in any other way, can a district require the individual student to come on campus?

Given certain parent concerns about the health and safety of their family during the COVID-19 crisis, districts that choose to offer remote instruction consistent with the requirements and exceptions of TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 10/15/20), including the exceptions listed, must ensure those families have access to remote instruction. As a result, discontinuing remote instruction in a way that only targets struggling students is not permitted. While a transition to on campus for targeted students can’t be required, parents can choose for their students to transition to on campus instruction at any time (subject to a local restriction, if implemented, to align with grading periods). When students are struggling academically in the remote setting, teachers and principals should talk to families about their options. Health and safety of the student and their family should remain the primary consideration.

Assuming those considerations are addressed, there are a few issues that should be considered when discussing with families the educational benefit for a student to return to campus. First, with a few exceptions, TEC, §25.092, requires students to attend at least 90% of the course in order to obtain credit. This applies to individual course subjects at the secondary level, and to all grade levels at the primary level. Students who cannot meet this requirement while enrolled in public school may be required to repeat the grade and/or subject the following year. Second, truancy laws still apply to students enrolled in public school but who are not attending (either remotely or in person), although school systems have flexibility in their approach to truancy enforcement. Third, course grades may still be an issue. Semester grades are issued based on local policy, but in the event local policy supports it, students who ultimately fail to earn a passing grade for a course (or an entire grade level) could be required to repeat the course (or grade level).

How will attendance be taken and funding generated when using the synchronous instruction method?

Per TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 9/24/20), the instructional method chosen will dictate how attendance is taken. For synchronous instruction attendance will be taken and funded as follows:

  • Students logged in at the teacher’s documented official attendance time are marked present for that day, but would be documented as “Present-Remote Synchronous” in SIS for PEIMS reporting.
  • Students who are not logged in at the teacher’s documented official attendance time are marked absent.
  • Teachers take and post attendance at a specific schedule, just as with on-campus ADA. Attendance clerks would follow up with attendance taken for remote synchronous instruction in ways that are similar to follow up actions taken for on-campus instruction.
  • A minimum number of daily minutes are required to earn full day funding: grades 3-5, 180 instructional minutes; grades 6-12, 240 instructional minutes; the synchronous method for recording attendance for grades PK-2 is not allowed. (School systems could support these grades via the asynchronous method).
  • Daily instructional minutes need not be consecutive.
  • Time students spend in work-based learning opportunities can be included in the daily instructional minute calculation; these include internships, externships, apprenticeships, and mentorships.

For half-day ADA FSP funding, divide the full-day minute requirements in half.

How will attendance be taken and funding generated when using the asynchronous instruction method?

Per TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 9/24/20), the instructional method chosen will dictate how attendance is taken. For asynchronous instruction:

  • Tthis model will generate full-day funding for each day “engaged,” assuming (for secondary) that a student isn’t scheduled to participate in less than a half-day's worth of courses.
  • Staff should check daily for student “engagement”. If students are engaged for the day, they would be marked as “Present-Remote Asynchronous” in SIS for PEIMS.
  • Students who are not “engaged” that day are marked absent.
  • Engaged is any of these three: 1) progress (as defined in the approved learning plan) in the Learning Management System (LMS) made that day; 2) progress (as defined in the approved learning plan) from teacher/student interactions made that day; or 3) turn-in of assignment(s) that day. Tracking ADA requires one measure of student engagement per day, not one measure of student engagement per day per course.
  • Regarding the 90/10 minimum student attendance for class credit rule for the 2020–21 school year, according to TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (7/17/20), the determination that a student has met the minimum attendance for course credit requirement is made locally. Additionally, tracking of attendance for course credit may differ from the method used to track attendance for funding purposes. More specifically, engagement, as defined for asynchronous remote attendance purposes, would not need to be recorded daily in each class for the purposes of the 90/10 minimum student attendance for class credit rule.
    Per TEA, engagement can be tracked in many ways. For example, a teacher might document engagement at the end of each week or the end of the grading period. Another option is for educators to use an LMS to track daily student engagement in each course. A third option is to have one teacher track engagement for a smaller group of students each day, such as a homeroom/advisory teacher who calls the students and checks in on their progress across assignments/courses, ensuring students have made progress in each course each day. That “homeroom teacher” could also make sure students go to the weekly office hours/synchronous lesson/small group tutoring session for each of their courses where they need help.

TEA is working to ensure LMS tooling is available that can automatically enter asynchronous attendance into local student information systems. Note: districts are free to develop procedures where campus attendance clerks enter remote asynchronous attendance data into the district’s SIS in an effort to save teacher time.

Are teachers required to post remote asynchronous attendance each day or can campus clerks assist in posting attendance for students who engage through the remote asynchronous instruction method?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 9/24/20), there is no requirement that remote asynchronous attendance must be posted in the SIS on the same day the engagement occurs. School districts are free to develop a process for recording asynchronous attendance that lessens the load of asynchronous attendance-taking on teachers as much as possible. For example, a campus could choose to run a report from the LMS every Friday and have the campus attendance clerk enter the remote asynchronous attendance for that week based on the daily engagement documented in the LMS report.

How can we be funded under asynchronous instruction for students who do not have internet access at home?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (9/3/20), remote instruction for students without internet or computer access at home can be provided via an approved asynchronous plan. To be approved, the plan will need to include descriptions around the same requirements for asynchronous instruction for students that have internet and computer access and those who do not. For school districts planning to support asynchronous remote instruction for students without access to internet or devices, their asynchronous plan should include:

  • Instructional schedule: to ensure the student is engaging with approximately the same amount of academic content as in a regular, on-campus school day.
  • Material design: to ensure instructional materials are designed specifically for an asynchronous learning environment (which could include paper packets as an alternative to online work).
  • Student progress: to ensure student engagement and progress must be monitored daily (which could include regularly turning in, grading, and providing feedback on paper packets and phone calls with students to discuss daily progress). Please note, this is likely the hardest component to complete remotely without access to technology, but in order to be approved, it still must include a plan for tracking daily student engagement with a focus on monitoring academic progress and giving academic feedback to students.
  • Implementation support for educators and families: to ensure support for teachers in implementing the asynchronous plan for students without technology and for communicating expectations to families and students.

If the school district is not meeting remote asynchronous plan requirements, then the school district will not be able to receive attendance funding for students engaging in remote instruction after the end of asynchronous plan approval grace period (end of third 6-weeks grading period).

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?

Per TEA’s SY 20-21 Asynchronous Plan FAQ (updated 9/17/20), a school district is not required to offer remote/virtual instruction. However, please note that if you have not submitted an asynchronous plan or a synchronous attestation, you will not be able to count attendance for remote instruction in the case of campus closure or student quarantine. Also, parents in your school district who want remote instruction can enroll their children in another school district that does offer remote/virtual instruction for transfer students. The district would need to complete an asynchronous plan and meet all plan criteria if it would like to receive funding in the event of a short-term closure or for students who must be quarantined for a period of time.

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?

Per TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ (updated 9/24/20), to count as on-campus attendance, students must receive instructional support from staff who have the capacity and expertise to provide academic support specific to the student’s grade level and content area. Some of the instruction may still be remotely delivered to on-campus students, but those students must also receive instructional support on-campus. If students are on-campus and engaging in remote instruction with no on-campus instructional support specific to their grade level and content areas, then that would be considered remote instruction and would need to follow all remote instruction requirements, including marking the students as RA-Present or RS-Present for funding purposes.

Is synchronous instruction for PK-2 prohibited?

TEA clarified in its SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ that synchronous instruction is not prohibited for PK-2; rather, just the synchronous method for recording attendance is prohibited for PK-2. The synchronous method for attendance requires a minimum of 180 minutes be completed per day through a synchronous virtual method (e.g., a Zoom call), which after extensive stakeholder engagement with educators and district leaders, was determined to be neither developmentally appropriate nor good instructional practice as a 5-day-a-week practice for PK-2 students. Using asynchronous remote for these students would allow districts, for example, to provide synchronous instruction for these students in shorter time increments in areas such as foundational literacy practices mixed with asynchronous learning activities that build in opportunities for student practice, interactions, exercise, and play-based activities.

Can a district use remote instruction for students who are absent for ANY reason (even something other than COVID-19 absences) and receive funding?

Per TEA in its SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ, the answer is yes; one of the two methods of remote instruction is an acceptable way to provide instruction to students for the 2020-21 school year and continue to receive funding for those students. Documented attendance/engagement must occur on the day of the absence.

Will at-home parent-led instruction count toward a district’s instructional minute requirements as part of either remote instruction method?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ, at-home, parent-led instructional time will not count towards meeting daily attendance or engagement requirements under either remote instruction method. Teachers must be the primary provider of instruction in any remote setting.

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?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Attendance and Enrollment FAQ, a student who is scheduled to receive instruction through the district’s remote synchronous method who is not present at the official attendance time can still be marked present if the student is engaged through the district’s remote asynchronous method that same day. In this scenario, the teacher should mark the student absent when attendance is taken at the official attendance time and the absence could later be changed to remote asynchronous present with documented engagement through one of the approved remote asynchronous engagement methods that occurred the same day. However, the district’s approved asynchronous plan would need to include the relevant grade/subject as being eligible for asynchronous instruction, and that synchronous instruction would be provided concurrently.

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?

According to TEA’s guidance, Adjusting 2020-2021 School Calendars (updated 5/7/20), the agency predicts that the 2020-21 school year is “likely to include short-term disruptions to instruction and high student absenteeism” due to further waves of COVID-19 infections, and recommends that districts be prepared to convert to an intersessional calendar.

TEA’s recommendation of an intersessional calendar could involve an earlier start date, longer mid-year breaks, and a later end date. (An example is provided with two weeks off at Thanksgiving, four weeks in December/January, three weeks in March, and six weeks in June/July.) These intersessional breaks can be used for remediation, acceleration, or enrichment; school closures due to resurgence of COVID-19; and/or bad weather make up days.

Districts wishing to change their start dates should review TEA’s Changing School Start Date Guidance. Districts that would require a DOI plan must go through the process outlined in law, which requires a school board resolution, formation of a committee to develop the plan, development of a plan that must be posted for 30 days, and approval by a majority vote of the district-level decision-making committee in a public meeting. The plan must also be approved by a two-thirds vote of the school board. A revision to an existing plan must also go through a similar approval process.

Longer school years have significant implications for teacher contracts and salaries. To see TCTA’s exploration of these issues, click here.

For additional information on calendar options, please see TEA’s Intersessional Calendar Options (updated 5/12/20) and TEA's 2020-21 Calendar Guidance and FAQs (updated 5/21/20).

Is there guidance regarding adding school days?

In TEA’s guidance, Adjusting 2020-21 School Calendars (updated 5/7/20), TEA suggests that school districts implementing an intersessional calendar in 2020-21 may consider adding the Additional Days School Year (ADSY) program to their calendar, which provides for half-day formula funding for school systems that add instructional days to any of their elementary schools (PK-5) starting in the 2020-21 school year. Funding for an ADSY program is available for those days beyond a minimum of 180, up to 210. The ADSY program requires that participating campuses meet both the 75,600-minute requirement and conduct 180 days of regular instruction to be eligible for funding. Professional development and other waivers do not count toward the 180 days of instruction. TEA communications have anticipated that some of the additional funding would be used for salaries, but the law does not specify how salaries would be handled. Whether and how much educators would receive in additional compensation for working additional days appears to be the decision of local school districts. 

Do participating districts give grades for additional days?

Per TEC, §25.085(i), additional days attendance is non-compulsory for students. Therefore, the additional days do not qualify as grading periods.

How will remote instruction in 2020-21 affect ADSY eligibility and half day requirements?

Per TEA’s Additional Days School Year guidance (updated 7/9/20), the requirement that campuses must operate 180 regular academic days to be eligible for ADSY still applies to remote instruction. These days would need to be considered full days under the new remote instruction guidance. Given that remote course completion is not driven by daily attendance, full time virtual campuses operating under the course completion framework will not be eligible for ADSY.

The requirement that an ADSY program day must provide a minimum of half day of instruction would apply to remote instruction as follows:

  • Synchronous (grades 3-5): Half of the full day requirement, or a minimum of 90 minutes of synchronous instruction. Grades 6-12 are not eligible for ADSY.
  • Asynchronous: The same daily engagement measures outlined in the district’s asynchronous instructional plan apply for ADSY program days.
  • Remote Course Completion: Course completion will not be eligible for ADSY given daily attendance is not taken to ensure 180 days of instruction for ADSY eligibility.

If a charter school decides to change to a year-round calendar, will it be required to submit a non-expansion amendment?

Yes, according to TEA’s guidance, Charter School FAQ (updated 5/12/20). 19 TAC §100.1033 lists the reasons for which a charter school would be required to file an amendment to change the terms of its open-enrollment charter, including: maximum enrollment, grade levels, geographic boundaries, approved campus(es), approved sites, relocation of campus, charter holder name, charter school (district) name, charter campus name, charter holder governance, articles of incorporation, corporate bylaws, management company, admission policy, or the educational program of the school.

Adopting a year-round calendar would be a change to the educational program of the school, requiring a non-expansion amendment. Charter schools considering adopting a year-round calendar for the 2020-21 school year should make preparations to file a non-expansion amendment with the agency as soon as possible, prior to the beginning of the new school year. Expanding prior to receiving the commissioner's approval will have financial consequences as outlined in §100.1041(d)(1).

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?

An uncontactable student has not participated in continuing instruction that the district has made multiple efforts to contact to no avail. TEA’s Uncontactable Student FAQ and Guidance (updated 5/8/20), addresses common questions and best practices.

If the student’s teacher is unable to contact a student, typically efforts are escalated and administrators attempt to contact all persons listed on the student's contact list. Administrators will work with teachers who may know friends of the student and attempt to contact those individuals to see if they know the whereabouts of the uncontactable student. Attempts to contact students also can be made using social media. When these efforts fail, some districts have success conducting home visits, contacting neighbors or asking apartment managers for assistance in locating the student and their family.