As you begin preparing for the start of the 2020-2021 school year, DFPS is providing the following guidance to support you in meeting the educational needs of children. The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on educational settings are very fluid and new information comes out almost daily. The questions and answers provided below are general guidance based on state law and information obtained from the Texas Education Agency (TEA). It is important to know, however, that there are over 1200 independent school districts in Texas and there will be variations in how each of the districts plans to operate in the fall. You will need to reach out to your district for specific information regarding the type of instruction your district is offering. We are committed to helping you be successful as we all adapt to this ever-changing landscape.
Who will decide whether a student receives the On-Campus or Virtual Instruction?
DFPS is authorized by Texas Family Code, §153.371 to make educated decisions on behalf of the children and youth in the agency’s managing conservatorship. In most circumstances, DFPS delegates this authority to foster parents or caregivers as the primary Education Decision-Maker. In the event that the Education Decision Maker is not the foster parent or someone at the child’s placement, any decisions regarding the child’s school setting must be made in consideration of the foster parent’s circumstances and wishes. For a child in the temporary managing conservatorship of DFPS, the caseworker will inform the foster parent and/or Education Decision-Maker of any preferences the parent has regarding the child’s educational setting. If disagreements arise, work with your DFPS caseworker and their chain of command.
What is the difference between the On-Campus and Virtual Instruction?
On-Campus- means that schools are open and operating normally, students are scheduled to attend school on campus each day (traditional).
Remote Synchronous Instruction – two-way, real-time/live virtual instruction between teachers and students when students are not on campus.
Remote Asynchronous Instruction – instruction that does not require having the instructor and student engagement at the same time. In this method, students learn from instruction that is not necessarily be delivered in person or in real-time. This can include recorded lessons provided by instructors.
Will attendance be counted the same as in previous school years and how does this impact families who choose virtual instruction for the child?
Yes, students must attend 90% of the days a course is offered (with some exceptions) in order to be awarded credit for the course and/or to be promoted to the next grade. This requirement remains in force during the 2020-21 school year. In a remote synchronous teaching and learning method, students who are logged in at the teacher’s documented official attendance time are marked remote synchronous present for that day, and students who are not logged in at the teacher’s documented official attendance time are marked absent. Asynchronous attendance is measured in a daily frequency. Daily progress is measured via teacher-student interactions, as defined in the approved learning plan; or completion/turn-in of assignments from student to teacher (potentially via email, on-line, or mail).
Who will supply electronics and Wi-Fi access for students?
If virtual instruction is chosen, in most instances, students will be provided access to technology devices, such as iPads, Chromebooks, and Wi-Fi hotspots, to begin their remote learning. Foster Parents will need to inform the school of the need for assistance. Please be mindful that this may look very different depending on the school district, TEA is continuing to work with the districts to overcome any barriers to remote learning.
What is the public health plan in place for students attending on-campus instruction?
According to TEA, schools will attempt to have hand sanitizer and/or handwashing stations with soap and water at each entrance and in every classroom. Students, teachers, staff, and campus visitors should be encouraged to sanitize and/or wash hands frequently. Schools are required to comply with the governor’s executive order regarding the wearing of face masks for students for whom it is developmentally appropriate. A mask may include non-medical disposable face masks, cloth face coverings (over the nose and mouth), or full-face shields to protect eyes, nose, and mouth. Where feasible without disrupting the educational experience, schools will encourage students to practice social distancing. In the classrooms, students are required to be spaced a minimum of six feet apart.
Will schools offer transportation?
Yes, if the school district previously provided you with transportation it will continue to do so, however, schedules and seating arrangements may be modified. Schools are encouraging families to drop students off, carpool, or walk with their students to school to reduce possible virus exposure on buses. Buses will be thoroughly cleaned after each bus trip. Schools have been advised to open windows to allow outside air to circulate in the bus and to consider requiring students and staff to use hand sanitizer upon boarding the bus, but such requirements will be up to the local independent school district. Please check with your district to learn what modifications are being made to their transportation policies and procedures.
Will students be able to receive special education services regardless of settings?
Students are expected to receive special education services outlined in their individualized education program (IEP), regardless of attending on-campus or virtual learning. When schools resume, ARD committees should address student-specific needs resulting from the impact of changes to the learning environment. Schools are to consider ways to use distance technology to the extent possible to provide child find and identify students who may be eligible for special education services, hold initial and annual ARD committee meetings, and/or evaluation/eligibility. COVID 19 does not change any of the special education laws in place. Special education services will look different for every student depending on the type of education setting. If you have any concerns about a child who is receiving special education services please reach out to your regional education specialist for assistance.
Who can I go to for help?
Each school district and open-enrollment charter school is statutorily required to appoint at least one employee to act as a Foster Care Liaison to facilitate the successful enrollment and transfer of records for students in the legal custody of DFPS when enrolling in or changing schools (TEC § 33.904). Foster Care Liaisons also play an important role in advocating for the needs of students in foster care and coordinating with various school personnel and departments to ensure the required supports, practices, and best-practice strategies for serving students in foster care are implemented within the district. You can contact the school to obtain the name of the foster care liaison or you can go view the foster care liaison information in AskTED.
Additionally, DFPS regional education specialists are available to assist you with navigating these changes and with overcoming any barriers you may have when working with your school district. You can email Felicia Penn, the Education Program Specialist at Felicia.Penn@dfps.state.tx.us or locate your DFPS education specialists on the DFPS Education Page.
As always, I stand in awe of your ongoing commitment and dedication to the children of Texas, and thank you for your patience as we navigate the many changes resulting from this pandemic that impact us all.
Associate Commissioner for Child Protective Services, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services