Coppell ISD Board of Trustees

The Coppell ISD Board of Trustees approved Monday to delay the start of the school year to Aug. 17.

Aug. 12, the original first day of school, and Aug. 13 and 14 are now professional development staff work days and student holidays, according to the district’s updated calendar.

Kristen Streeter, Administrative Services assistant superintendent, said the change would allow for more time to get personal protective equipment provided by the Texas Education Agency.

The change would also give staff more time to prepare for the school year, she said.

“We feel like it would be of real benefit to have those days at the beginning of the school year to adequately prepare everybody,” she said.

At the meeting, Superintendent Brad Hunt said the change would not affect in-person or distance learning that is set to resume after Sept. 7. He said the calendar change gives the district more time, and that there was a chance everybody would have to transition to remote learning at some point.

“So at least everybody had a taste of it at the start of the school year,” he said.

On July 16, Dallas County Health and Human Services mandated that schools within the county could not open for on-campus in-person instruction until after Sept. 7.

Other districts have postponed the start of their school years. Little Elm ISD and Lake Dallas ISD have both elected to delay the start of the school year by about two weeks.

“Based on our experience of the last four months, we weren’t sure with any certainty that waiting two and a half more weeks, three more weeks was going to gain us anything different in light of where we are with COVID and the virus and safety measures and things like that, and we’re ready,” Streeter said. “We’re ready to have our staff back, whatever that looks like.”

On Tuesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released legal guidance in the form of a letter to Stephenville Mayor Doug Svien stating that local health officials could not issue “blanket” orders that would close schools solely for preventative reasons.

“The decision to close schools on such a preventative basis—whether public or private—remains with school system leaders who should consult with relevant public health authorities, including the Department and local health authorities,” Paxton stated.

TEA Commissioner Mike Morath in a Wednesday press release addressed Paxton’s announcement and said school systems planning on starting the year remotely would still be fully funded based on the agency’s eight-week “transition funding waiver.”

“Lawful building closure orders will continue to enable a school system to be funded when providing remote-only instruction,” Morath stated. “Also, it’s important to note that the school start date remains at the discretion of local school boards.”

Coppell ISD stated on Wednesday that the Board of Trustees would have a workshop meeting Monday to discuss the guidance change.

Paxton’s guidance was announced one day before Dallas County reported a new one-day high of COVID-19 deaths, characterized by county Judge Clay Jenkins as a “somber reminder of the seriousness of the outbreak.”

The deadline for families to fill out a commitment form that will designate if their students will participate in online or in-person learning for the first grading period of the school year has been extended to Aug. 12.

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