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Coronavirus Updates

Governor Waives Grade Promotion Requirements for STAAR Test for 2020-2021 Year

in Coronavirus Updates/Schools
Governor Abbott Waives STAAR Testing Requirements

Governor Greg Abbott today announced on Monday, July 27, that the grade promotion requirement related to the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test for students in grades 5 and 8 has been waived for the upcoming school year. Typically, school systems must take into account a student’s score on the STAAR test to determine whether the student can be promoted to the next grade level. The traditional A-F rating system will remain in place, albeit with certain adjustments due to COVID-19.

Students enrolled in grades 5 and 8 are required to re-take a STAAR test late in the school year, and sometimes again in the summer, if they do not meet grade-level when taken during the spring. With this waiver, there will only be one administration of the STAAR grades 5 and 8 mathematics and reading assessments for the 2020-21 school year. The test will be administered in May to coincide with the administration of other STAAR grades 3-8 assessments.

“As always, our goal is to provide a high-quality education for every Texas student,” said Governor Abbott. “This will be a uniquely challenging school year, therefore, this year is about providing students every opportunity to overcome the disruptions caused by COVID-19. By waiving these promotion requirements, we are providing greater flexibility for students and teachers, while at the same time ensuring that Texas students continue to receive a great education – which we will continue to measure with high-quality assessments.”

“Parents deserve to know how well their children have learned grade-level knowledge and skills in reading and math, especially in a time when education has been substantially disrupted,” said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath. “And educators use this valuable information to make adjustments to support students the following year. But there is no benefit to our children by requiring them to repeat a year based on a single test score given the disruptions of COVID, so we are waiving the grade promotion requirements from STAAR this year for our students.”

“Parents rightfully expect our schools to continue to meet a high bar and it is critically important that teachers and parents know how each child is progressing and whether or not they need additional help. A-F ratings will provide us with important information about school performance and, while we won’t use the STAAR test to determine promotions, it will continue to provide us with assessment data that we need. We face some unprecedented challenges in the upcoming year, but we must continue to keep our schools accountable and on track,” said Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.

“During a time of great uncertainty, one thing is indisputable – we cannot allow an entire generation of Texas students to be disadvantaged by the unprecedented disruptions this pandemic has caused in our education system. Not only will this approach do a great deal to reduce the `high-stakes’ burden of testing in a school year already complicated by this pandemic, but it will also hold schools accountable for providing high-quality education while equipping teachers and parents with the information they need to make certain students are learning and remain on the path to educational success,” said House Speaker Dennis Bonnen.

“During these unprecedented times, with the State’s support, our schools should do everything they can to provide a quality education for our students. I also agree with Governor Abbott that our students should not be penalized by circumstances beyond their control while recognizing the assessment itself provides important insight to grade-level achievement in a new learning environment,” said Senator Larry Taylor.

“With this waiver, we are ensuring that the success of Texas students remains the focus of this school year. These unprecedented times have brought much upheaval to these students’ lives and this is one thing we can do at the State level to help ease them back into their educational routines while still ensuring the institutions of education remain accountable,” stated Chairman of the House Public Education Committee, Dan Huberty.

Additional information can be found on the TEA’s FAQ guide on the Texas Assessment Program.

COVID Testing Offered Wednesday and Thursday in Orange

in Coronavirus Updates/Government
COVID Testing Offered Wednesday and Thursday in Orange

Orange County will be offering two more days of the Military Mobile COVID-19 Testing.

It will be on Wednesday, July 15,  and Thursday, July 16, 2020, from 8 am -4 pm located at the Orange County Convention and Expo Center; 11475 FM 1442 in Orange.

You do not have to make an appointment. Just show up and you will be tested.

The testing will be free of charge.

https://orangeworthy.com/starbucks-opens-today-in-orange/

TEA Issues Comprehensive Guidelines for a Safe Return to On-Campus Instruction for the 2020-21 School Year

in Coronavirus Updates/Schools
TEA Issues Comprehensive Guidelines for a Safe Return to On-Campus Instruction for the 2020-21 School Year

The Texas Education Agency today announced comprehensive guidelines for students to return to school, prioritizing their health and safety while ensuring that students receive quality instruction, whether they choose to learn in a safe on-campus environment or remotely.

“Both as Commissioner and as a public school parent, my number one priority is the health and safety of our students, teachers, and staff,” said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath. “That is why the guidance laid out today will provide flexibility to both parents and districts to make decisions based on the ever-changing conditions of this public health crisis. The state is and remains committed to providing a high-quality education to all Texas students while ensuring the health and safety of students, teachers, staff, and families.”

Morath added that, despite what will be a challenging budget year, Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker Dennis Bonnen, and other legislative leaders are committed to fully funding in-class and remote instruction for every child in the upcoming school year. As a result, parents will have more choices than normal this year as they decide which school setting is best for their children, including:

  • Daily on-campus learning will be available to all parents who would like their students to learn in school each day.
    • In addition, all parents will have the option to choose remote learning for their children, initially, or at any point as the year progresses. Parents who choose remote instruction for their students may be asked to commit to remote instruction for a full grading period (e.g. 6 or 9 weeks), but will not have to make that commitment more than two weeks in advance, so they can make a decision based on the latest public health information.
  • Health and safety procedures will be in place to support student and teacher safety.
    • Some health procedures are mandated for every school in the state. For example, all students, teachers, staff, and visitors coming to campus must be screened before being allowed on campus. Consistent with the Governor’s most recent executive order, and assuming that order is still in place, masks will be required while in school buildings, with certain exceptions made, as noted in the order. Schools will also be required to follow any forthcoming executive orders issued by the Governor.
    • Additional health procedures are recommended for every school that can reasonably implement those procedures.
    • Districts have the option to establish a phased-in return to on-campus instruction for up to the first three weeks of the school year, to ensure all appropriate health and safety procedures are fully in place.
  • TEA is providing school systems with resources to ensure a strong start. This includes:
    • Reimbursement for extra COVID-19-related expenses incurred during the 2019-20 school year;
    • Tens of millions of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies provided to school systems at no cost to Texas schools;
    • Free online, TEKS-aligned learning tools to deliver remote instruction;
    • Teacher training provided at no cost to the school system; and Statewide efforts to help bridge the digital divide for students at home, along with other ongoing support.

For more information, please visit TEA’s Coronavirus website: https://tea.texas.gov/coronavirus

A link to the Texas Education Agency’s comprehensive public health guidance can be found here.

This framework was developed based on the most current science with input from Governor Greg Abbott’s Coronavirus Medical Advisory Team; the Governor’s Strike Force to Reopen Texas; Texas school system leaders; ongoing global analysis of school operational practices; ongoing global analysis of research on the viral spread in schools; and the latest peer-reviewed viral research studies.

Due to the nature of this pandemic, parents and educators should expect to see some campuses close for brief periods during the upcoming school year. If there are significant changes to the public health situation, there may need to be additional changes to the framework as well.

Governor Abbott Orders All Texans to Wear Face Masks

in Coronavirus Updates
Governor Abbott Orders All Texans to Wear Face Masks

On Thursday, July 2, 2202, Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order that requires all Texans to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth in public spaces, with exceptions. According to the order, this applies to residents of counties with more than 20 positive cases of COVID-19. This includes Orange County.

Restrictions on outdoor gatherings are also included in the order. Gatherings can no longer be over 10 people and, with certain exceptions, groups over 10 must maintain six feet of social distancing.

The mandate comes one day after Texas hit another grim milestone in COVID-19 cases and reported 8,076 new cases on Wednesday, making it the highest one-day total in the state since the start of the pandemic.

Abbott said in the announcement, “Wearing a face covering in public is proven to be one of the most effective ways we have to slow the spread of COVID-19. We have the ability to keep businesses open and move our economy forward so that Texans can continue to earn a paycheck, but it requires each of us to do our part to protect one another-and that means wearing a face-covering in public spaces. Likewise, large gatherings are a clear contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases. Restricting the size of groups gatherings will strengthen Texas’ ability to corral this virus and keep Texans safe. We all have a responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep our communities safe. If Texans commit to wearing face coverings in public spaces and follow the best health and safety practices, we can both slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep Texas open for business. I urge all Texans to wear a face-covering in public, not just for their own health, but for the health of their families, friends, and for all our fellow Texans.”

According to Abbott, the decision came after a surge in cases across Texas, with the Governor saying the daily number of positive tests statewide has quadrupled in a month – to 6,000 positives a day.

The Governor says that the consequences for violations are:

  • First Violation – A warning
  • Violations after will include penalties up to $250.

No one will be jailed for violations, however.

“Local law enforcement has the authority to enforce this safety standard,” says Abbott in his video announcement. “Just like they do when enforcing seat belt standards.”

Abbott’s order is effective as of 12:01 p.m. Friday, July 3, 2020.

Abbott had previously resisted calls for such a statewide requirement but allowed local governments to require businesses to mandate masks.

You can read the Executive Order here.

Abbott Rescinds Bar Openings and Reduces Restaurant Occupancy

in Coronavirus Updates
Governor Abbott Extends Quarantine to 10 States, Including Louisiana

Governor Greg Abbott today issued an executive order limiting certain businesses and services as part of the state’s effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. This decision comes as the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 and the number of hospitalizations have increased and the positivity rate in Texas increased above 10%, which the Governor previously stated would lead to further preventative action. The targeted, measured directives in the executive order are based on links between certain types of businesses and services and the recent rise in positive cases throughout the state.

The order includes the following:

  • All bars and similar establishments that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages are required to close at 12:00 PM today. These businesses may remain open for delivery and take-out, including for alcoholic beverages, as authorized by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
  • Restaurants may remain open for dine-in service, but at a capacity not to exceed 50% of total listed indoor occupancy, beginning Monday, June 29, 2020.
  • Rafting and tubing businesses must close.
  • Outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people must be approved by local governments, with certain exceptions.

“As I said from the start, if the positivity rate rose above 10%, the State of Texas would take further action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Abbott. “At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars. The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health. We want this to be as limited in duration as possible. However, we can only slow the spread if everyone in Texas does their part. Every Texan has a responsibility to themselves and their loved ones to wear a mask, wash their hands, stay six feet apart from others in public, and stay home if they can. I know that our collective action can lead to a reduction in the spread of COVID-19 because we have done it before, and we will do it again.”

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