Johnson County Judge Roger Harmon on Tuesday said he has no plans to follow Tarrant County’s lead on school year opening dates.
On the heels of Cleburne ISD’s Monday decision to push the beginning of their school year from the originally announced Aug. 3 date to Aug. 31, Tarrant County’s health department on Tuesday ordered all schools in that county to conduct online-only classes until at least Sept. 28.
The order restricts all school-sponsored activities, such as athletics, band and clubs, to be conducted remotely or outside while exercising proper social distancing.
Burleson ISD, which is partially within Johnson County, partially within Tarrant County, falls under the order.
Johnson County’s remaining ISDs don’t and so are not affected by the order.
Burleson ISD, in a letter to parents on Tuesday afternoon, announced the delay of remote learning and in-person learning.
"This was a difficult decision for our health leaders, and we know the ripple effect will be challenging for many of our families. None of us wanted to begin school this way," the letter reads. "Our local health officials, however, directed us to the data showing a local rise in positive cases, which reflects recent statewide trends.
"Data provided to us by the Burleson Health Authority indicates that since June 1, the total number of reported positive cases in Burleson has increased significantly. The local positivity rate is 20% — twice the rate Governor Abbott says is the threshold for alarm. Dr. Colquitt, Infectious Disease Specialist for Tarrant County and Dr. Steve Martin, City of Burleson Local Health Authority and Medical Director, informed us that our area hospitals are approaching capacity for many resources, including nurses on staff and hospital beds. These medical experts are concerned that any large, indoor gatherings risk significant increases in community spread that could further tax our local health systems.
"We all want to see our students in the classroom, on the field, on the court, and at a performance. We know you do, too. We must also protect the health of students, staff, and families. Health officials who have been monitoring trend lines tell us surges in positive cases and hospitalizations appear about three to four weeks after holiday weekends. As a result, officials calculated for a potential surge following Labor Day, and delayed in-person instruction until Sept. 28, 2020. Our goal is to get to in-person, on-campus activities as soon as we can — safely.
"TEA is expected to announce new programs to help districts offering virtual learning for all students under local health orders. Although we have already made plans for virtual learning, TEA’s assistance will be very helpful, and we will incorporate its solutions as soon as they are available. To ensure successful implementation of TEA’s new programs, we will delay the start of the school year from Aug. 19 to Aug. 31.
"Please know On-Campus Learning will resume for parents who selected this learning option in accordance with state and local health guidelines when it is safe to return to campus. Student registration will continue for all BISD students through Family Access in Skyward, and the most current information and resources regarding Virtual Learning for the 2020-21 school year are available at bit.ly/BISD2020Learning. Parents concerned about the implementation of their students’ individual education plans may contact BISD Special Services. More information about activities, meals, Virtual Learning, and school calendar will be sent out soon."
Burleson ISD will continue to provide updates as they become available.
Tarrant County’s order comes in response to the continued spread of COVID-19.
Harmon said it’s not his place to determine when local school districts begin their school year.
“I’m following the situation daily of course on the national, state and local level in regards to COVID-19,” Harmon said. “And myself and the commissioners court get input from [Johnson County Health Official Robert Shaw] and [Johnson County Emergency Manager Jamie Moore]. But, as far as determining school openings, the commissioner of education in Austin make those decisions on a statewide basis or, if not, let the local school boards decide, which is what he seems to have done. That’s the right decision in my opinion. Those school boards are voted in by local citizens after all, and those board members are in the best position to know what’s best for their particular district.
“Now, if [Gov. Greg Abbott] comes out and makes an announcement on school opening dates or gives that authority to county judges that all might change. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.”