Tarrant County

Reopening Tarrant County Schools Is Still a Moving Target

Districts eye possible decision by Tarrant County which would mandate online-only classes through Labor Day

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The superintendent of Arlington public schools said Monday it is “very unlikely” the district will open its classrooms on Aug. 17 and the reopening of other Tarrant County districts, including Fort Worth, remained unclear.

Fort Worth on Monday reaffirmed a plan to start in-person classes Aug. 17 with an option for parents to choose online classes.

But the pressure was mounting on Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley to follow Dallas County’s order that mandated online-only classes at all schools in the county at least through Labor Day.

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A spokesman for Whitley said Monday no decision was made "today" and would not elaborate.

"We know the best place for a student is in a classroom with a teacher,” said Arlington ISD Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos.

Speaking at an online meeting of the Arlington ISD school board Monday night, Cavazos said the question is: When will it be safe?

"And I will tell you it is very unlikely that we will have face-to-face instruction Aug. 17,” he said. “And it is unlikely because of our current situation. We are working with our county health authorities to make sure we have the flexibility to do online learning and keep everyone safe."

Last week, the Texas Education Agency gave school districts the option of "virtual classes" for the first four weeks.

Teachers associations argue that's the only safe plan.

"The amount of positive COVID cases in North Texas right now should govern that schools shouldn't be in-person,” United Educators Association executive director Steven Poole said. “So we're hopeful that counties will take care of that for school districts and mandate that in-person classes be canceled."

An Arlington teacher echoed his comments in the online board meeting.

"There are tons of people who want to open up schools,” Briana Bianco said. “But just because we want something doesn't mean it's the correct or safe thing to do. We are going to have to make some unpopular decisions."

Whitley declined an interview on Monday.

In an interview Sunday, he seemed open to temporarily limiting classes to online.

“I think everybody recognizes how important it is to get back to that teacher-student face to face relationship. And we're going to get there but we want to get there safely,” Whitley said.

But so far, Tarrant County hasn't issued any mandate.

"Time is of the essence and the clock is ticking,” Poole said.

Arlington had previously set a start date of Aug. 17 but the superintendent made clear the details are still a moving target.

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