Historic winter storms strike Texas, leaving millions without power, water

We hope you've all been able to stay warm and safe as Texas continues to be impacted by the massive winter storms that hit the region over the past week. Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for the entire state, and made addressing the state's failed electric grid a legislative priority after millions were left without power and water. While the Texas Legislature suspended meetings this week, lawmakers have pledged to review ERCOT's lack of preparation.

The crisis compounded the state's struggles amid the COVID-19 pandemic as schools, nonessential government services and most businesses were shut down this week to help conserve energy and because icy roadways made travel treacherous. Many schools with power and water instead opened as warming shelters and worked to distribute meals to those in need.

With the worst weather behind us, we expect to resume normal operations at TCTA by Monday and our Virtual Convention will still take place Feb. 26-27. Most schools will reopen by Monday as well, and districts will likely request waivers from the Texas Education Agency for the missed instruction days.

We hope you ride out the rest of #snovid safely until warmer weather returns.
CDC updates its guidance for in-person learning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated guidance on Friday to help school leaders determine how to safely reopen for in-person learning. The plans come amid President Joe Biden's push to get most K-8 schools open by the end of April. The CDC urges schools to "layer" the most effective safety precautions: masking, physical distancing, hand-washing and respiratory etiquette, ventilation and building cleaning, and contact tracing to minimize the spread of COVID-19, saying proper mitigation can keep schools safe even in areas with high community spread.

While schools in Texas have been required to offer in-person instruction since the fall, many TCTA members continue to report that their districts fail to enforce recommended COVID-19 health and safety precautions. In our recent survey, 33% of respondents said their district does follow guidance, 37% said precautions are taken sometimes and 28% said guidelines are not followed. Many respondents cited the lack of social distancing in classrooms and cafeterias and students/staff not wearing masks. Others said they believe districts are underreporting COVID-19 cases and failing to require quarantines. Click here to see all of the CDC's recommendations for schools.

According to the state dashboard, 6,651 Texas students and 2,323 educators tested positive for COVID-19 for the week ending Feb. 7.

We have all the latest state and federal guidance in our COVID-19 FAQs on 2020-21 Education Issues. This week we added information about physical fitness testing and hands-on CPR training. Due to weather, TEA also extended the deadline for the Operation Connectivity Prior Purchase Reimbursement Program to 5 p.m. Feb. 24.

While this information is not legal advice, we hope it helps answer questions you may have about COVID-19's impact on schools. Members who have specific concerns or questions should call the Legal Department at 888-879-8282 to speak with a staff attorney.
PO BOX 1489 AUSTIN, TX 78767 | 888-879-8282 | TCTA.ORG