As schools across Texas have been closed since March, the Texas Education Agency is encouraging school districts to look at adjusting their schedules for the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year in light of the Chinese coronavirus.
In a document being circulated to school districts across the state, titled “Adjusting Your School Calendar for COVID-19 Response,” the TEA concedes that the upcoming school year is likely to be marked with “short-term disruptions to instruction and high-student absenteeism, with some students consistently physically absent.”
The agency argues that the early end to classes this school year, combined with the summer break, could lead to a decrease in overall preparedness headed into the fall, adding that “students could return nearly a full year behind what normally occurs.”
Their solution? A move towards year-round schooling with an earlier start date, longer breaks, and a later end date.
The document offers additional days to elementary school as an option for schools looking to extend their calendars. HB 3, a sweeping school funding bill passed in 2019, offers additional half-day funding to schools in exchange for them lengthening instructional time (from 180 instructional days to 210).
An average year has around 261 working days, meaning the changes—should school districts decide to take advantage of the additional funding—would result in shorter summers for elementary students and less time at home, as well as potential logistical struggles for working parents.
Additionally, encouraging more schools to apply for additional state funding appears counteractive to efforts to slash the state budget, as government-mandated economic shutdowns in response to the Chinese coronavirus will mean a significant decrease in tax revenue to the state.
To change the start date, the TEA recommends schools apply to become a “district of innovation” (a designation that provides districts with more flexibility from state regulations) or receive board approval to become a year-round school.
Charter schools need only adjust their calendar locally with board approval.