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Thousands of Texas students return to school to take STAAR test despite COVID-19 pandemic

It's a decision that's drawing criticism from a Southeast Texas father and one of Texas' top teacher unions.

TEXAS, USA — Thousands of students across state returned to campuses Tuesday to complete the annual State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness test amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Texas Education Agency has required the tests be taken in-person despite the pandemic.

For many students, this was the first week they returned to campus since the beginning of the pandemic. It's a decision that's drawing criticism from a parent in Southeast Texas and one of Texas' top teacher unions.

While the bells still sound the same, this school year has been anything but normal. "Just imagine what the parents have gone through, having to be both the parent and the teachers," said Kenneth Bean.

Virtual learning is a way of life inside of Bean's household. It's a decision the Beaumont Independent School District dad stands by.

"I will not sit on the front seat and say goodnight to my child, and then I have to deal with the consequences of my actions for the rest of my life," Bean said.

Bean is among thousands of parents across the state having to choose whether to send their children back to school after the TEA made it mandatory for students to take their STAAR test in-person.

"I don't believe there is a principle or teacher that can actually attest that they can vouch and put their careers on the line that the children in the state of Texas are ready to take that test," Bean said.

The TEA says the STAAR test will allow them to identify how much learning was lost due to the pandemic. The Texas State Teachers Association, which is a union group, believes the state agency has its priorities all wrong.

"To have a test that is going to test a standard we know we are not in is unbelievable at this time," said Ovida Molina, president of the Texas State Teacher Association.

Molina said the test should be canceled, and the state agency should not lose sight of what's most important.

"On a year where there is a pandemic going on, and they’re worried about their health, they are worried about the health of their educators, their families, their communities, that's an undo burden that should be happening to our students," Molina said.

As for Bean, he said the risk is too great for him to take any chances.

"I refuse put anyone my children in that cemetery anywhere on the face of this planet," Bean said.

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