Note This is a rapidly changing issue, so check back for updates.
Governor Abbott's Executive Order GA-38, which prohibits school districts from requiring face coverings, is back in place after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed a previous federal order prohibiting the ban. Paragraph 4 of GA-38 states:
no governmental entity, including a [...] school district [...] may require any person to wear a face covering or to mandate that another person wear a face covering.
The 5th Circuit order allows the school mask mandate ban to remain in effect until the court issues a final ruling on the case. The initial suit was filed by Disability Rights Texas, an advocacy group. The group argues that the school mask mandate ban violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because it prevents children with disabilities from accessing public education. Previously, the school mask mandate ban was overturned by a ruling in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has also announced that they have opened a civil rights investigation. The investigation will determine if the Texas mask policy violates federal law by keeping students with disabilities from accessing safe, in-person education. OCR issued a letter to TEA announcing the investigation on September 21st, 2021.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is the state agency tasked with overseeing public education for grades K-12 in Texas, with oversight of both independent school districts and charter schools. As schools reopen for in-person learning this fall, TEA has issued guidance on various COVID-19 related issues that affect public schools in Texas. At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention have also issued guidance for K-12 schools.
Most independent school districts have also created their own back-to-school plans that outline the school's safety protocols, so be sure to check the school district's website or contact them directly for a copy of these plans.
The TEA has issued guidance on COVID-19 related leave options and teacher resignations over in-person teaching assignments. See the Employment page of this guide for information on workplace safety requirements including OSHA standards, how to report unsafe working conditions, and more.
The TEA recently issued guidance [PDF] that allows schools to offer remote conferencing for up to 20 days to students who have been exposed or tested positive for COVID-19. Some students may be eligible for remote conferencing for a longer period of time. This option will remain for the entire 21-22 school year. Remote conferencing is defined as "two-way, real-time/live virtual instruction between teachers and students" and cannot be taught by a teacher who is teaching in-person students simultaneously.
House Bill 1468 would have provided state funding for school districts' remote learning options, but this bill failed to pass during the 87th Regular session. As a result, many Texas school districts canceled their plans for offering more remote learning options during the 21-22 school year. It's a good idea to check the school district's policy for more information. Additionally, some school districts may partner with the Texas Virtual School Network to offer full-time remote instruction.