Q: Summer is fast approaching. In light of COVID-19, are we going to be able to offer traditional, in-person summer school?
A: Yes, the Commissioner of Education issued guidance on May 18, 2020, relating to considerations and guidelines for in-person summer school.
The guidance issued by the Commissioner provides requirements, as well as recommendations for summer school. Most importantly, while Districts received the green light to offer traditional, in-person summer school programs, attendance in person must be optional for students. Students who are required to attend summer school must be provided the option to satisfy their academic and participation requirements virtually if they do not choose to attend in person.
The Commissioner recommends that if a District decides to offer in person summer school programs, Districts should consider prioritizing those programs for: students with significant academic gaps; students with disabilities whose needs pose additional challenges to learning in a virtual environment but who are otherwise not medically at risk; student learning experiences that cannot be done remotely (e.g., Career and Technical Education learning experiences); students experiencing homelessness; English learners; younger students whose parents may have greater need of childcare to allow them to work; and/or students in protective day service who are not otherwise medically at risk.
Regarding structure and protocols, the Commissioner directed that no more than eleven people should be together regularly in a class group. This restriction includes teachers, staff, and students. Additionally, all instruction should be held in spaces that allow desks to be six feet apart. If possible, dividers should be placed on desks to shield respiratory droplets. Students should not be brought together for large group gatherings, outside of their class group, unless a distance of thirty feet between groups can be maintained. Furthermore, when possible, students should be taught in one classroom. If students must be taught by multiple teachers, the Commissioner recommends a plan where teachers rotate between classes or staggering class start and end times to minimize exposure between individuals. In either scenario, it is recommended that Districts arrange additional cleaning and disinfecting of commonly touched surfaces and classrooms between different class groups.
Before entering campus and at the start of each week of instruction, all students are to be pre-screened for COVID-19 symptoms that they or others in their household may be experiencing. If the student or someone in their household is experiencing symptoms, they should self-isolate for two weeks. If possible, students should also have a temperature check each day they are on campus. Hand sanitizer should be at each entrance and should be used whenever a person enters the building. Hand sanitizer should also be available in every classroom. Additionally, students should engage in supervised handwashing for at least 20 seconds at least two times each day. Districts should also consider having students wear cloth face coverings if developmentally appropriate. Face coverings are likely not appropriate for those students under five and for some students with disabilities.
Additional direction is provided regarding operations, including food services, transportation and custodial requirements. Response to student illness and positive test results is also addressed in this six page document. To see the Commissioner’s guidance relating to summer school in its entirety, see TEA’s website. For other questions or additional information regarding in-person summer school programs, you should contact your local school attorney.