Schools Shuttered Until May 4, State-Wide Stay at Home Order in Effect


Jake Schlanger

Bret Crammer and Erik Schlanger talk to each other on a walk, following social distancing guidelines.

Governor Greg Abbott (R) issued an executive order that shutters all Texas public schools until May 4 and urged Texans to stay home. The announcement came as the number of COVID-19 cases in Texas spiked. With 3,266 cases in Texas and over 244 cases in Austin alone, Mr. Abbott acknowledged the need for state-wide action.

“The traditional model that we have employed in the state of Texas for such a long time effectively does not apply to an invisible disease that knows no geographic and no jurisdictional boundaries,” Mr. Abbott said during a press conference Tuesday.

The two announcements won’t be new for members of the Westwood community, due to RRISD and Austin beating the governor to the punch when it comes to closures. Mr. Abbott asked Texans to stay home until April 30, slightly before schools will be allowed to open back up. The governor’s office said that it may be extended the timeline at a later date.

Other members of Texas leadership who spoke at the press conference included Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R) and Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen (R). Both officials echoed the Governor’s comments while emphasizing the importance of unity in the face of a viral threat.

“The reality of it is we are together and if Texans stick together and follow the CDC guidelines, respect the executive order of the governor, and [the orders] that will continue to be out there, we will be to a normal life far sooner than later,” Mr. Bonnen said at a press conference.

The importance of getting people back to work and returning conditions to the status quo was a theme that was repeated often throughout the press conference. The three public officials were very clear that following the new guidelines is the best way to return to normalcy. 

This stands in contrast to the position that Republicans both in Austin and Washington took up in response to COVID-19. Many members of the party have called on state governments to reopen the economy so as to limit the economic fallout. Up until about a week ago, President Trump questioned the importance of stay at home orders and urged people to continue going to work.

America will, again, and soon, be open for business. Very soon. A lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting,” Mr. Trump said during a daily COVID-19 press conference. “Lot sooner. We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”

Mr. Abbott hasn’t shared this hardline stance in the past, but at the same time has declined to take any state-wide action. Many of his past orders have been aimed at allowing flexibility for local governments to take action. Some people have taken issue with this course of action, including City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan of district six.

Mr. Flannigan said that he was frustrated with the Governor’s response to the crisis and the lack of uniform measures for Texas. According to him, this interfered with Austin’s ability to slow the spread of the virus as many people from outside the city continued to travel through the city.

Many public officials are also urging Texans to stand together. For many younger people, this could mean volunteering for a variety of organizations. One organization that Mr. Flannigan recommended for students was HEB’s Favor Helping Seniors as part of the #TexansHelpingTexans program. This is just one of the many ways that students can stay busy until school begins online on Monday, April 6.