CDC recommends universal masking in schools
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, citing the highly transmissible Delta variant, recommended Tuesday that K-12 schools adopt universal masking for teachers, staff, students and visitors regardless of vaccination status. The move marks a change from CDC guidance in May that said vaccinated people no longer needed to mask or physically distance in most indoor and outdoor settings. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said this change is "not a welcomed piece of news" and "was not a decision that was taken lightly," noting only 30% of children 12-17 are currently fully vaccinated. The new recommendations say children do not need to mask when they head outdoors for recess or physical education, for example, unless they will be standing in a crowd for long periods of time. That also puts the health agency in line with the American Academy of Pediatrics, which last week recommended that everyone over the age of two wear masks in school. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has said he will not be rescinding his mid-May order that bars schools and nearly every other government entity in the state from requiring face coverings. “Governor Abbott has been clear that the time for government mandating of masks is over - now is the time for personal responsibility,” said spokeswoman Renae Eze. “Every Texan has the right to choose whether they will wear a mask or have their children wear masks.”
Dallas Morning News
Wall Street Journal
Aledo ISD names new Bearcat Leadership Team
Aledo ISD has named the district fine arts coordinator, an elementary instructional specialist, and the assistant principal at Daniel Ninth Grade Campus. Missey Head will serve in Aledo’s first-ever districtwide fine arts leadership position, which will be part-time during the 2021-2022 school year; Stefanie Mathews has been named the assistant principal at Daniel Ninth Grade Campus; and Barbara Williams has been named an elementary instructional specialist, supporting teachers at McCall Elementary School by building teacher capacity through instructional coaching.
Leander ISD names 2 new high school principals
Leander ISD will have two new high school principals in the 2021-22 school year after the board of trustees approved the hires when it met last Thursday. Rouse High School will be led by Tonya Thompson, currently the district's director of advanced programs. She replaces Christine Simpson, who was named an area superintendent in June. Elsewhere in the district, Clay Currier will be the next principal at New Hope High School, an alternative high school that gives students "a self-paced option for completing their high school graduation requirements," according to the district.
Stockdale ISD clears 1,300-acre solar project tax break
A solar farm project in the Stockdale area will benefit from a tax concession from Stockton ISD. The school board unanimously approved a Chapter 313 agreement with energy company 247CT 8me LLC, also known as 8minute Solar Energy. The measure creates a tax reinvestment zone for a solar energy installation of more than 1,300 acres in the district. Nixon-Smiley Consolidated ISD, in neighboring Gonzales County, has a similar agreement with the company.
Wilson County News
Judge dismisses lawsuit over UT's admissions policy
A national organization’s latest attempt to sue the University of Texas at Austin over its admissions policy that the group claims “improperly considers race” has been tossed out of a federal court. The lawsuit, filed by Students for Fair Admissions on behalf of two white students who applied to UT-Austin’s 2018 and 2019 freshman classes, accused the university of discriminating and denying applicants admission based on race. In the ruling, which was signed Monday by federal Judge Robert Pitman of the Western District of Texas, the court states that plaintiffs brought similar arguments that were already made in a prior case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court twice. In those cases, the courts upheld UT-Austin’s admissions policies.
The Texas Tribune
New Waverly ISD considers no-tax ballot proposal
On Monday, members of the New Waverly ISD Board of Trustees got their first look at a plan that would call for a $20m-$25m no-tax increase bond vote. The plan, which was developed by a community-based committee, hopes to upgrade and enhance each of the district’s four campuses. The committee recommended enhancements, including the creation of a new intermediate school campus near the current elementary campus. The recommendation also calls for additional classrooms at the elementary school and high school and a new gymnasium for the new elementary/intermediate school. Board members opted to not call for an election on Monday, but are expected to do so at a special-called meeting on August 9th. The district will have until August 16th to file for a place on the November 2nd ballot.
U.S. sees surge in home schooling
Since Spring 2020, when the pandemic began to seriously disrupt life across the U.S., the number of families opting to homeschool their children has continued to increase. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in March that the rate of households homeschooling their children had risen to 11% by September 2020, more than doubling from 5.4% just six months earlier. Black households saw the largest jump; their homeschooling rate rose from 3.3% in the spring of 2020 to 16.1% in the fall. Joyce Burges, co-founder and program director of National Black Home Educators, said the 21-year-old organization had about 5,000 members before the pandemic and now has more than 35,000. Many of the new families experienced difficulties, including lack of internet access, that limited their children’s ability to benefit from virtual learning during the pandemic, Ms. Burges said. “It got so they didn’t trust anything but their own homes, and their children being with them,” she said. “Now they’re seeing the future, seeing what their children can do.” For some families, the switch to homeschooling was influenced by their children’s special needs. That’s the case for Jennifer Osgood of Fairfax, Vermont, whose 7-year-old daughter Lily has Down syndrome. Having observed Lily’s progress with reading and arithmetic while at home during the pandemic, Osgood is convinced homeschooling is the best option for her going forward.
District officials in dark over this year's kindergarten enrollment
Public school enrollment dipped across the board in the last school year, according to preliminary federal data shows, with the largest changes seen in the youngest grades, as kindergarten enrollment fell 9%, and pre-K enrollment fell 22%. District leaders are now preparing for a year of unknowns, faced by factors such as a surge in numbers if those missing students show up anew. "Are we expecting those kids to return this fall? And if so, what is that going to do to this next cohort?" asks Beth Tarasawa, executive vice president of research at the education nonprofit NWEA. Some leaders say it is too soon to tell if this will happen. Although in Portland, Oregon, officials say early enrollment is higher than average, in Indianapolis, officials report preliminary numbers aren't significantly higher than a normal school year.
Walmart to cover 100% of college tuition for its workers
In an effort to help decrease the growing student debt nationwide, Walmart announced Tuesday that the company will begin offering free college tuition and books to its 1.5m US employees, effective August 16th. It will drop a previous $1 a day fee paid by Walmart and Sam's Club workers who want to earn a degree and also begin covering the costs of their books. The program includes 10 academic partners ranging from the University of Arizona to Southern New Hampshire University. Participants must remain part-time or full-time employees at Walmart to be eligible. "We feel that eliminating the dollar a day investment removes the financial barriers to enrollment, and it will increase access", said Lorraine Stomski, Walmart's senior vice president of learning and leadership.
Remington offers $33m to families of Sandy Hook victims
Remington Arms Co. has offered to pay nearly $33m to nine families to settle lawsuits claiming that its marketing of firearms contributed to the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, where 26 people died. The Sandy Hook families have sought to prove that Remington violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act by marketing what it knew was a weapon designed for military use to civilians such as the shooter, who used a Bushmaster AR-15 in the attack. Remington had filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2018 and emerged the same year under the control of its creditors. It filed for bankruptcy again in July 2020, after more retailers restricted gun sales following other school shootings.
Back-to-school spending set to surge - but shortages could impact shoppers
School districts in many parts of the U.S. are mandating in-person attendance in the coming school year, prompting analysts to forecast a massive surge in spending on supplies. A recent survey from the National Retail Federation found that families with children in elementary school through high school say they plan to spend nearly $850 for on back-to-school shopping this year, including clothes, shoes and electronics, up nearly $60 on average from last year. Total spending is expected to reach a record $37.1bn. At the same time, high demand could lead to shortages of products such as backpacks, stationery and electronics. “While we are unlikely to see apocalyptic shortages, the continued pressure on supply chains means that not all retailers will get an optimal amount of supply", said GlobalData managing director Neil Saunders. "What this means is consumers will have less choice, and some may not be able to get exactly what they want, especially towards the end of the back-to-school season".
Wall Street Journal