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Specialty tag(s): Child Custody

Expect the Unexpected: COVID-19 and Possession Schedules in the 2020-21 School Year

Kristiana Butler | June 9, 2020

It’s the beginning of summer, but nervous texts about school are circulating among parents in my group of friends. “What are you going to do about the fall?” “What if they don’t go back to school?” “Have you seen a new school calendar?”

Uncertainty about the upcoming school year is causing anxiety for parents trying to line up childcare, and family law attorneys see the looming change in school calendars like a storm brewing on the horizon.

While Texas possession schedules contain “mutual agreement” language that gives parents a green light to agree on whatever schedule they see fit, drastic changes in the school calendar can present challenges for even the most reasonable parents.

School districts around the state are resorting to creative scheduling in responding to the pandemic. The Spring Independent School District, outside of Houston, has rolled-out a new calendar for 2020-21 that includes “Intersession/ Remote Learning” weeks throughout the year. This includes two week blocks away from school in November, December, and March, with the school year ending in late June. Austin ISD has a Re-Entry Task Force considering a later start or a mixed-start for the 2020-21 school year (you can monitor updates to the AISD school calendar here). Dallas ISD is considering a blend of in-school and in-home learning  (changes to the final DISD school calendar will be posted here). Many school districts are considering calendars drastically different than what parents have seen in the past.

A careful review of the calendar for your school district, in combination with your possession schedule, becomes extremely important. Pay close attention to both the beginning and end dates for designated school holidays—especially if you have a Standard Possession Order or an Expanded Standard Possession Order. The dates that are labeled as “intersession” or “remote learning” days are most likely going to be treated like ordinary days in your possession schedule.

It may be helpful to discuss how you and your child’s other parent plan to handle these “intersession” or “remote learning” days, or the possibility that schools will temporarily close with little warning due to COVID outbreaks in the winter months. Look for updated school calendars later in the summer and have a conversation with your co-parent about how the schedule should be adjusted. Don’t wait until the week before school starts to come up with a plan.

For more information, contact Kristiana Butler at (512) 454-8791.

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