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New state guidance raises questions about Beaumont ISD's virtual learning week

A spokesperson for Beaumont ISD said the district still plans to move forward with its current plan.

BEAUMONT, Texas — New guidance from the Texas Education Agency has led to new questions about Beaumont Independent School District plans to go virtual the week after Thanksgiving.

It involves state funding the total amount of "instruction time" for students. The TEA wants to make sure a certain amount of in-person class time is offered this year.

Their new guidance explains moving to virtual learning could create a deficit in those classroom minutes, so the school would be on the hook to make them up.

75,600 minutes is the magic number. The TEA said schools in Texas must offer that amount of in-person instruction this school year.

RELATED: Beaumont ISD students will learn virtually during week after Thanksgiving break

If they don't, the district would not receive full state funding for next year if a school transitions to online learning. Here's the bad news. One minute of online learning is only worth 30 seconds of in-person instruction.

So, if a school chooses to move online only, it can create a deficit. The TEA went on to say that there is some flexibility for schools. They are permitted to have in-person make-up days or adjust the school calendar to reach the magic number.

A spokesperson for Beaumont ISD said the district still plans to move forward with its current plan.

Representative Hannah LeTulle told 12News the district reached out to the TEA and is working with them, saying in part "at no time has TEA communicated to BISD that it may not conduct education virtual, nor has the agency indicated that the district will be required to make the days up."

LeTulle said the district feels confident in its plan. And has no intentions of reversing its decision.

RELATED: Southeast Texas doctor weighs in on Beaumont ISD's shift to virtual learning the week after Thanksgiving

Full release from Beaumont Independent School District

No, we will not be reversing this decision. The District is moving forward with the plan to transition to virtual learning the week of November 30-December 4.

Due to an increase in COVID-19 cases and quarantine among students and staff, on November 18, 2020, Beaumont ISD announced that following Thanksgiving Break all students will participate in school virtually with on-campus classes resuming on December 7, 2020. 

BISD made this decision with the authority outlined in TEA's Attendance and Enrollment guidance, which states, “to allow sufficient time to resolve the public health concerns while minimizing academic disruption, 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.” 

No campus will be closed more than 5 days, and because the students will be participating in education virtually, the days are not required to be made up. 

The day following our announcement, November 19, TEA issued amended guidance, and now allows campuses to close for 14-calendar days “if a significant number of instructional staff at the campus is impacted due to a confirmed COVID-19 outbreak, such that the campus can no longer be sufficiently staffed for instruction even when making appropriate operational adjustments.” 

In light of the amended guidance, Beaumont ISD contacted TEA to confirm its authority to close it's campuses and is working closely with the Agency to submit the paperwork with the recent revision in guidance. 

At no time has TEA communicated to BISD that it may not conduct education virtual from November 30-December 4, nor has the Agency indicated that the District will be required to make the days up. Beaumont ISD is committed to providing our students and staff a safe environment conducive to learning. While the pandemic has made our efforts more challenging, our commitment has not changed. We ask all Beaumont ISD families to continue partnering with the District as we work to safeguard our community.  

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