Gov. Greg Abbott announced the closure of Texas schools through the end of the 2019-20 school year at press conference in Austin on Friday.

This order applies to public and private schools, as well as institutions of higher education.

“The team of doctors advising us has determined that it would be unsafe to allow students to gather at schools for the foreseeable future,” Abbott said. “As a result, school classrooms are closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.”

Teachers will be allowed back in the classroom to perform administrative duties, conduct video instruction, or clean out their classrooms. Abbott advised that Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath would soon provide details about how school districts should proceed and how they could conduct graduation ceremonies.

At the press conference, Abbott also announced a number of executive orders aimed at reopening Texas in stages, guided by data and the advice of medical professionals.

“In opening Texas, we must be guided by data and by doctors,” Abbott said. “We must put health and safety first. We must prioritize protecting our most vulnerable populations.”

When coronavirus began spreading in the United States, school closure decisions started at the local level with individual superintendents making the call for their own districts.

In San Antonio, that meant Bexar County district leaders jointly decided to extend spring break by a week and extended those closures for five more weeks before Gov. Abbott announced schools would remain closed until May 4 during his statewide stay-at-home declaration.

These closures forced school districts to shift instruction remotely, offering lessons via paper packets and online. Local districts distributed thousands of tablets, laptops, and Wi-Fi hotspots to help students connect to their teachers.

School districts also changed the way they graded students, with some opting to use a pass-fail-like system to address the changes in instruction and challenges introduced by the coronavirus.

With schools closed through the end of the academic year, most students won’t have learned on campus in three months. If schools open by next fall, that will equate to a five-and-a-half month gap filled with remote learning.

IDEA Public Schools and KIPP Texas were the first major San Antonio school districts to announce closures through the end of the 2019-20 academic calendar. Great Hearts Texas announced the same decision Thursday.

Are you an educator or do you have a student in your home who now has to learn remotely?

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.