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School’s Out for Summer

Governor Lays out Plan to Begin Re-opening Texas

By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

EAST TEXAS – To quote shock-rocker Alice Cooper, “School’s out for summer.” At least that’s what Texas Governor Greg Abbott effectively said during a noontime press conference held on Friday, April 17.    

During the press conference, the governor issued three new Executive Orders to begin the process of reopening the state of Texas.  

In the executive orders, select activities and services that pose minimal to no threat of spreading COVID-19 are allowed to reopen using a “retail-to-go” model. Certain restrictions on surgeries have been loosened and – as mentioned earlier – schools will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year.

“The team of doctors advising us has determined it would be unsafe to allow students to gather at schools in the foreseeable future. As a result, school classrooms are closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. That includes all public, private and higher education institutions. Teachers will be allowed in the classroom for video instruction, if they choose, or to perform administrative duties, or to clean out their classrooms. For public education, TEA Commissioner Mike Morath will soon provide more details about how to proceed and he will explore how to conduct graduation ceremonies,” Abbott said.   

The exact text of Executive Order GA-16 states: “In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, schools shall remain temporarily closed to in-person classroom attendance by students and shall not recommence before the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Public education teachers and staff are encouraged to continue to work remotely from home if possible, but may return to schools to conduct remote video instruction, as well as perform administrative duties, under the strict terms required by the Texas Education Agency. Private schools and institutions of higher education should establish similar terms to allow teachers and staff to return to schools to conduct remote video instruction and perform administrative duties when it is not possible to do so remotely from home.”  

Also within the executive orders, Gov. Abbott established a Strike Force to Open Texas “… a team of nationally recognized medical experts and private and public leaders who will advise the Governor on safely and strategically reopening the state of Texas.”

“Texans are battling a colossal challenge—an invisible enemy that has tested our lives and our livelihoods—but overcoming challenges is part of who we are as Texans. We have shown that Texas can continue our efforts to contain COVID-19 while also adopting safe standards that will allow us to begin the process of reopening Texas. The Strike Force to Open Texas brings together nationally recognized medical experts with public and private sector leaders to achieve this mission. By coming together, we can get Texans back to work, practice safe standards that will prevent the spread of COVID-19, and we can overcome this pandemic,” the governor said.

James Huffines will lead the advisory strike force and Mike Toomey will serve as Chief Operating Officer. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and Comptroller Glenn Hegar will serve as consulting members. In addition, Governor Abbott has appointed Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD, as Chief Medical Officer of the strike force.

The Governor today also directed state parks to reopen on Monday, April 20 with strict guidelines to reduce transmission of COVID-19 – including requiring visitors to wear face coverings, maintain a six-foot distance from individuals outside of their party, and prohibiting the gathering of groups larger than five.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected].  

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