Public and private schools cannot be closed by local health authorities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, per guidance from the Attorney General of Texas.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a guidance in which his office states only school officials can decide whether, when and how to open schools during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“While playing an important role in protecting the health of school children and employees, local health authorities may not issue sweeping orders closing schools for the sole purpose of preventing future COVID-19 infections. Rather, their role is limited by statute to addressing specific, actual outbreaks of disease,” a press release from the attorney general’s office states, adding only school officials have the power to decide when and how to open up schools.

The Texas Education Agency - TEA, updated a list of frequently asked questions, following the attorney general’s statement, in which item 42 states schools will not be funded provided they were subjected to closure by order of local health authorities.

The policy is posted in the agency’s Attendance and Enrollment FAQ memo, updated Tuesday.

The agency states orders from local health authorities cannot conflict with executive orders from the governor, and must apply control measures required by statute.

According to TEA, one exception to this decision is when school districts apply for valid funding such as a start-of-year transition, that would be available to school districts that did not offer on-campus instruction.

Val Verde County Judge Lewis Owens and City of Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano previously stated in a press conference the local authorities understand San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District follows the directives from state and federal guidelines.

The school district announced it is scheduled to begin classes the week of Aug. 24 fully online, with the week of Sept. 16 as a transition week for students that chose the traditional classroom or hybrid education models.

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