ABILENE – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Friday afternoon that school districts across the state will remain closed through the end of the 2019-20 academic year as the state recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and works on a soft re-opening of the state.
While urging Texans to continue to take precautions, Abbott said traditional public and charter schools should stay shuttered to help reduce spread of the novel Coronavirus. The order also covers institutions of higher education.
The Abilene ISD announced on Friday, March 13, that the district would shut down for three days (March 16-18) as the district prepared to return from Spring Break. The district then announced on Monday, March 16, that the closure would last the entire week (through March 20). Finally, on Wednesday, March 18, the district announced an indefinite shutdown as the state first began feeling the effects of the Coronavirus.
Friday’s announcement by the governor deals with only the physical closure of schools through the end of the academic year and not the online piece that most school districts in the state – including the AISD – are currently utilizing. Students in the AISD are still expected to continue their online learning through the scheduled end of the academic year on Friday, May 22, and that includes the mandatory turning in of assignments to teachers to monitor progress of all students.
“The community of Abilene has done a good job of trying to flatten the curve here and minimize the damage of this virus here in Abilene,” AISD Superintendent Dr. David Young said. “We certainly want to be good partners in that effort in everything we do as a school district. Our focus now is moving the education of our students forward with our online learning platform.”
One of the casualties of the school closure and soft re-opening of the state is the AISD’s May 23 graduation ceremonies, which are being postponed to a later date this summer. Young said that while some plans are evolving for an online ceremony, the district is also looking at the possibility of in-person ceremonies at Showell Stadium in mid-July. However, those plans are, for now, tentative and will have to follow federal, state and local guidelines and be vetted by local health officials before they are finalized.
“I know how much this hurts each of our seniors and their parents, and how much they’re missing out on at the end of their high school careers.” Young said. “I have a graduating senior myself and I know how much we’ve all missed, so our family shares the frustration and disappointment other seniors and their parents feel in how this senior year has ended. However, we are looking at alternative plans for graduation, Top 25 announcement and awards ceremonies and hope to have information on those plans very soon.”