Q: I heard that TEA recently changed its position regarding low attendance waivers. Our attendance was horrible in August due to COVID-19 quarantines. Will we be eligible for a waiver?
A: No, but the Commissioner has agreed to adjust operational minutes for all school districts for the first six-week reporting period of the 2021-2022 school year.
In sum, the Commissioner of Education is exercising his authority under Section 25.081(b) of the Education Code to approve a reduction in the minimum number of required minutes of operation (75,600) for all school districts during the first six-week attendance reporting period of the 2021–2022 school year. No application is required; rather, all school districts will automatically be granted the adjustment.
Because the intent of the one-time modification is to amend the low percentage attendance rates caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to mirror a standard school year, the modification to the minimum number of operational minutes does not hold a district harmless for losses of ADA due to enrollment declines. TEA will, instead, calculate a Target Percentage Attendance Rate (TPAR) by comparing the attendance rates for the first six weeks of the 2021-2022 school year to the 2019-2020 school year and the final three weeks of the 2021-2022 school year. Funding will be provided at the lower of the latter two percentage rates for the first six weeks of the 2021-2022 school year.
For the reminder of this year, school districts can request a waiver for low attendance to excuse instructional days from losses in average daily attendance (ADA) and Foundation School Program (FSP) funding calculations that have attendance at least 10 percentage points below the last school year’s overall average attendance for the district or any applicable campus due to inclement weather, health, or safety related issues, and as standard, TEA will grant or deny at the Agency’s discretion.
The TEA SY 2021-2022 Waivers FAQ November 11, 2021, document is available here. For specific questions or additional information regarding attendance waivers, please contact your local school law attorney.