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Back To School For Real? Texas Officials Say Yes

Football coach Bob Wager (right) and sophomore safety Cameron Conley greet each other Thursday at the reopening of strength and conditioning camp at Martin High School in Arlington, Texas. State officials say they plan to open schools for in-person instruction in the fall.
LM Otero
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Will students actually go back to school this fall? In Texas, state officials say yes.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath confirmed Thursday that the state's public schools will open for students to return, if they wish.

"It will be safe for Texas public school students, teachers, and staff to return to school campuses for in-person instruction this fall," the commissioner said in a statement. "But there will also be flexibility for families with health concerns so that their children can be educated remotely, if the parent so chooses."

He did not offer any information on whether students would be required to wear masks and whether there would be social distancing precautions.

"Detailed guidance on what this will look like will be issued by [Texas Education Agency] early next week," Morath said.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has said that in-person schooling is a priority for him.

"I will tell you that my goal is to see students back in classrooms in seats, interacting personally with teachers as well as other students," Abbott told reporters earlier this week. "This is a very important environmental setting for both the students, for the teachers and for the parents. And so we believe that students in schools is the best outcome."

If students do return to school in person, there are indications that it may be a bumpy ride.

Many players on the University of Texas football team convened last week in Austin for voluntary workouts, member station KUT reports. Today, the university announced that 13 players have tested positive or are presumed positive for COVID-19. The players are now self-isolating.

Not everyone thinks it's wise for the halls to fill with students and staff so soon, as the number of new coronavirus cases in Texas continues to grow.

Zeph Capo is the president of the teachers' union Texas AFT.

"It sounds like they're under the misguided conception that August is going to be back to normal as usual," he told KUT. "And frankly I just don't believe that we're in normal times."

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Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.