EDINBURG — Hidalgo County pumped the brakes on beginning in-person class locally Tuesday, issuing an order that prevented both private and public schools from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade from returning to campus until after Sept. 27.
A release from the county says Dr. Ivan Melendez, in his capacity as the Hidalgo County local health authority, issued the order, which requires instruction to be provided through virtual, remote, or distance learning only.
Administrators, teachers, and staff may conduct or facilitate the remote learning process, or other operations while on campus provided they follow all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Those guidelines include social distancing and wearing facial coverings at all times, the county ordered.
“I commend Dr. Melendez for putting the safety of our students, teachers and district staff first,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez wrote in a news release Tuesday. “As our numbers continue to rise, it is vital that we protect our children and our teachers. Until we can get a better handle on this virus we must continue to keep our distance from one another.”
Schools will also be prevented from hosting any school-sponsored events and activities, such as clubs, sports, fairs, exhibitions, and academic or athletic competitions, until after on-campus instruction resumes, the release stated.
At least two weeks before resuming on-campus instruction, each school district must develop and submit a plan to parents and the public for their re-opening.
McAllen ISD School Board President Conrado Alvarado said representatives from local districts met with Cortez on Tuesday about delaying a return to campus.
“All the superintendents who did all the talking on the call pretty much said the same thing — that we need to start the school year with distance learning to protect our students, our staff and to try to reduce the surge we’ve had here recently,” he said. “We’ve all been kind of asking for help in declaring a public health emergency. That would allow us, the school districts, to go virtual learning to start the school district and not risk funding.”
Alvarado says action on behalf of the county will allow districts to switch to a virtual curriculum.
“He indicated that he’s going to take action here pretty soon. Once he takes action, that allows the districts, such as McAllen, to go to the next phase, which will probably be distance learning,” he said.
Hidalgo County municipalities had begun to take action on the matter for themselves. The cities of Edinburg, Pharr, San Juan, Mission, La Joya, Palmview and Hidalgo all took action Tuesday to delay or halt a return to in-school instruction.