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TEA: Schools can stop remote learning for struggling students

"The idea that a student is failing so we need to bring them into a dangerous condition, in a school building, is completely backward," a teachers union rep said.

SAN ANTONIO — Just as San Antonio records its largest coronavirus caseload in weeks, a discussion about bringing more students back into the classrooms is on the table.

Last week, the Texas Education Agency quietly updated its protocol and is now allowing districts to remove students from remote learning if they’re struggling academically.

But for San Antonio Alliance President Alejandra Lopez, it's not the right answer. 

"It's completely counterintuitive," Lopez said of the news on Wednesday. "The idea that a student is failing, so we need to bring them into a dangerous condition, in a school building, is completely backward." 

The TEA says a district can remove a student from remote learning if they have a class average of 70 or below, or three or more unexcused absences.

Educators would have to submit proof of the student's struggles, while parents would need to be notified two weeks prior and also agree to the change.

Lopez said San Antonio ISD is already reaching out to teachers trying to identify those struggling students.

But SAISD officials told KENS 5 the strategy is just one option on the table. In a letter to staff, the superintendent stated that "...schools are requesting flexibility to offer measures like tutoring, Saturday or Twilight school and targeted in-person instruction..."

But for the district's teachers union, the answer lies outside of the classroom.

"We need to invest into the infrastructure and resources to make virtual learning successful," Lopez said. "We're at an 8.4(%) positivity rate. We should be preparing for schools potentially being shut to limit community spread not thinking about how we can rush more students in." 

KENS 5 reached out to other area school districts to see if they would be implementing the TEA's latest option, these were their responses:

North East ISD: "No, we will not require it. We are having conversations with the families of students who are struggling, encouraging them to return – but we will not mandate it." 

Northside ISD: "Even prior to the guidance from TEA, campus staff have been working with families to proactively address issues of students struggling in a virtual model. Specifically, we are having conversations with parents about additional support including the option of returning the student to in-person learning."

Southside ISD: "Currently, about 50% of our students are on-campus and the other 50% are online. We are leaving the decision to our parents whether to send their children to school or keep them learning at home. This has always been our plan."