BEAUMONT, Texas — Schools have struggled as COVID-19 cases have climbed. Every district has different protocols for handling coronavirus outbreaks and shutting down is a last resort.
Beginning Wednesday, Burkeville ISD will be closed until next Wednesday, September 1. This includes all extracurricular activities, but this time around, virtual learning wasn't an option.
Texas school districts were forced to return to in-person learning this school year without an option for remote learning if there was a coronavirus outbreak.
“What the district had done was they built in eight additional days into their calendar above what the state's requirements were for days,” Dr. Darrell Myers said.
Because Texas legislature killed a bill that allowed public schools to continue offering remote learning without having their funding reduced.
“The biggest part of the issue is the state overreach on our local school districts,” said Ovidia Molina, president of the Texas State Teachers Association. “Our local school districts, if allowed, would be able to plan how to address the rise in cases if there's virtual learning. It's already planned but our state did not fund for that.”
Burkeville ISD exceeded 10 or more confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases, leading them to close their doors for seven days. If an outbreak happens again, Myers said they have the option of going virtual and not being paid for it.
The Texas House passed Senate Bill 15, which is a new bill that offers virtual learning but not through local school districts.
“We believe that the public schools shouldn't be gutted of funding to create new systems that will allow more virtual learning outside of our school districts,” Molina said.
It’s something the TSTA said does more harm than good.
“We're creating more disruption and what we want is to ensure our schools are safe so we don't have them,” Molina said.
The TSTA president said schools know what works best for their students
“When we have virtual learning as a part of a public school system then you’re still tied to that school you're still tied to that community,” Molina said.
Molina said the bottom line is districts should have the power to make plans without the state's approval
Senate Bill 15 still has to go through the Senate and the governor. Right now, schools in Southeast Texas like Burkeville ISD will be offering work packets and virtual options through school funding if they can afford it.