Texas Medical Association advises school districts to continue offering virtual learning option


AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas Medical Association and Texas Pediatric Society sent a letter to the state’s association of school boards and administrators, advising them to continue offering virtual learning options as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

Some Texas schools have been returning to classes in-person only, mainly due to connectivity issues or struggling students.

“We really put some families in a very difficult position, because they may not have access to those things,” State Rep. Geanie Morrison, (R-Victoria), said during a Texas Tribune discussion this week.

But, TMA said getting rid of the virtual option altogether presents several problems.

“We know that children don’t come home by themselves, right, they go home to families,” Dr. Valerie Smith, part of TMA’s School Reopening Workgroup, explained. She said some districts are only taking students’ health into consideration when someone their living with back home could have an underlying medical condition.

When students are asked to quarantine after a close-contact, there’s also a concern they won’t be able to keep up without an online option at home.

“It makes it much more difficult for families who are going home even though they won’t be permanently learning virtually, right, to stay caught up,” Dr. Smith said. “And we felt like there were concerns that it might make it more difficult for compliance with those quarantine and self-isolation recommendations.”

Michelle Cardenas, a Pre-K teacher, has been adjusting her teaching style since the pandemic began, like most teachers have.

“I personally take and plan for virtual, and then bring it to in-person, it’s working,” Cardenas said, “It should be the parents’ choice. They’re pushing for school choice. And this is part of school choice—we should be allowed to do virtual school.”

She’s choosing to keep her own two daughters at home.

“I feel like I’m exposed here at school, and I don’t want to expose other families and other students and other teachers in different districts,” Cardenas explained.

She said she understands why parents want to send their kids back in-person, but she doesn’t think the public is ready.

“We’re not ready as in, I hear the students talking about going to birthday parties. And they’re talking about going trick or treating. And they’re talking about going here and there and their families are going out and about, and they’re still meeting,” Cardenas said.

Dr. Smith also acknowledges while learning face-to-face is best, the pandemic needs to factor into more decisions.

“Most children can and should be in school face to face this year, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. But what we recognize is that that’s not true for every child or for every family,” Dr. Smith said.

TMA also said discontinuing virtual learning entirely will make it difficult for schools that are forced to shut down temporarily due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

Switching back to their previous virtual platforms and redistributing any devices would take time, and cut into education.

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