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Newswest 9 | Midland, Texas | newswest9.com

TEA provides changes to 2020-21 school calendars, prepares for 'devastating impact' on students

There are many questions about how classrooms will look next school year, and the TEA is trying to give school districts and families those answers.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Education Agency said it expects some students to be consistently absent from school next year and said school closures could have a "devastating impact" on students' achievements. The TEA is suggesting "intersessional calendars" that include an earlier start date for schools, a long winter break and a later end date. 

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The TEA said building a calendar that plans for and anticipates these scenarios will help minimize disruption. In the third page of its summary debrief from May 7, TEA's initial research shows students could return to school nearly a full year behind what normally occurs after a summer break. The organization has a PowerPoint explaining its plan. 

The guidelines show a calendar with longer holiday breaks dispersed throughout the year that provide flexibility. It has built-in remote learning time and staggered in-person attendance. TEA said the recommended six weeks of intersessional breaks can be used for remediation, acceleration or enrichment. 

The breaks can also be used by students not mastering content who could return for the intersession week for remediation. Teachers also can dedicate time to focus on struggling students. 

"We're going through a hard time right now," said Cheyenne Jordan, an Austin ISD parent to a fourth-grader. She said online learning, and the entire pandemic, has deeply impacted her family.

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"It's not too easy. I'm a single parent. I still have to go to the office so I work half the day and then I have to go home and still continue my 40-hour work week," said Jordan. "It hasn't really been going too well. She's not too excited about this online base. She's not familiar with all of the apps. She says that they're not working completely."

Jordan can understand how longer breaks can help students, but she's concerned about in-class learning after the pandemic.

"If we do have across-the-board regression in curriculum performance in the next year, I think we need to waive standardized testing completely to reduce that pressure when our kids go back," said Jordan. 

The school calendar changes are just guidelines; each school district decides if they want to follow those modifications. Jordan said she just hopes any future changes are made with the students in mind.

"I have confidence in my education system. I just want it to be fair that these kids are going through a trying time," said Jordan. 

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