Cortez calls TEA refusal to offer flexibility to Valley schools shameful

State Board of Education Member Ruben Cortez expressed disappointment Friday over Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath’s refusal to approve a proposal signed by 31 superintendents.

The letter, dated Dec. 14, called on Morath to implement a COVID-19 emergency on-campus attendance plan as a minimum framework at campuses where the infection rate rises above 15%. The framework would allow schools to continue 100% distance learning for the first four weeks of the spring semester.

At the same time, districts would continue to make rapid COVID-19 testing available to students, faculty and staff who participate in face-to-face instruction at the campuses. The letter asks that funding continue regardless of the instructional delivery method.

“I have seen too many people die from this disease. The commissioner’s refusal to work with Valley schools to protect students, teachers, and their families is just shameful,” said Cortez. “I implore the comm to open a dialogue with Valley superintendents and work out an agreement that will safeguard the health of our children and staff before more lives are lost.”

The Brownsville Independent School District has operated mostly under a distance learning-only instructional delivery model since school began on Aug. 25, receiving periodic four-week waivers from providing in-person instruction between Aug. 25 and Nov. 30, when voluntary in-person instruction resumed across the district.

According to the Department of State Health Services, the current hospitalization rate is 11.03% in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and 28.63% in Laredo. Region One is made up of 38 school districts across eight counties, from Laredo to Brownsville.

Brownsville Herald reporter Gary Long contributed to this report.