State Senator Warns Texas Governor School Reopenings May Bring COVID-19 Disaster

click to enlarge Texas Sen. Jose Menendez speaks to TV news crews outside the state capitol. - TWITTER / JOSE MENENDEZ
Twitter / Jose Menendez
Texas Sen. Jose Menendez speaks to TV news crews outside the state capitol.
In a letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, State Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, warned that the state's current hands-off approach to restarting public schools puts students and staff at risk for COVID-19 infections.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath has deemed it safe for schools to reopen in August. However, beyond broad recommendations, state officials have so far left it up to individual districts to set up specific protocols for curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

"As much as many would like to return to the way things were six months ago, these are not normal times," Menéndez wrote in the July 6 letter asking the Republican governor to set up more rigorous safety measures. "It is unfair to teachers, staff, and families to enact policy that is incongruent with the
current situation and puts them in danger's way."

Abbott's office was unavailable for immediate comment.

Menéndez's concerns are shared by state and national teachers unions, who have ripped Abbott and Morath for avoiding responsibility and risking a potential health disaster.

In his letter, Menéndez warned that the state's approach will create a patchwork of reopening efforts with could be confusing and contradictory.

"In counties, such as in Bexar where you have multiple school districts, and each with potentially different reopening plans, there is a possibility of conflicting policies that may reduce the overall effectiveness of curbing the mass community spread of COVID-19," he wrote. "In addition, district employees whose own children attend school in a different district with lax restrictions, could then spread the virus at a school with tighter health protections."

The senator's office also posted an online survey for parents to let him know their concerns about school resuming in the fall.

In an interview with the Current, Menéndez said he's hopeful the state's rapidly escalating number of COVID-19 infections will convince Abbott he needs to guide public schools' reopening more forcefully. 

"He's apparently now taking note that if he doesn't get ahold of this, it could following him through his political career," the senator said. "I can't imagine that he'd want to see it spread in the schools."

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