HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – Houston ISD says students will return to virtual and face-to-face learning after the Thanksgiving break, despite the Houston Federation of Teachers urging the district to go 100% online
Andrew Dewey, executive vice president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said the teachers’ association asked HISD in a meeting on Thursday to switch all schools to virtual learning after Thanksgiving due to the sustained and sustained surge in COVID-19.
The Houston Independent School District has continued to open its schools to personal learning.
After meeting with HISD, Dewey said the district had told the association that there was no decision at this time and that students are currently returning online and in person.
In its original reopening plan, the district noted that if the average positivity rate was greater than 7% for a 14-day period, all schools would have gone virtual. In October, the Houston ISD announced a change to its COVID-19 policy that would adjust the protocol for school closings based on positivity rates, but not illustrate the new metrics it was based on.
When ABC13 reached out to HISD to clarify the protocol for the schools and ask if there was a plan for students to return from vacation, the district said the following:
Decisions as to whether HISD will return to 100 percent virtual teaching would include joint guidance from the county, the Houston City Department of Health, and Harris County’s public health departments. We can also get advice from doctors and medical experts at the Texas Medical Center.
SEE ALSO: 13 Examines the “unacceptable” performance of the HISD technology provider
On October 26th, Harris County’s COVID-19 dashboard showed the average positivity rate for the past 14 days at 7.4%, meaning the schools would have gone virtual under the original policy.
According to Harris County’s COVID-19 dashboard, the 14-day average on Wednesday is up to 8.4%.
“The reality is we have to go back to the virtual,” said Dewey. “We thought it was a mistake to open in person when they did. HISD, as it should be, delayed it as long as possible. Oddly enough, the surge has been going on since schools opened in September. It is now back in a situation where it is spiraling out of control. We’re asking the district today to go completely virtual after the Thanksgiving break, at least until the end of the semester. And we understand the ramifications that can come on the state in terms of funding, but it’s time to do so, just in the name of safety. “
ALSO SEE: HISD schools are reopening with a new protocol for possible COVID-19 closings
ABC13 also reached out to Katy ISD and Fort Bend ISD. Fort Bend ISD did not respond, but Katy ISD sent the following statement:
While students and staff enjoy their Thanksgiving break, Katy ISD encourages our school community to follow recommended precautions and safety measures to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Earlier this week, the Superintendent of Katy ISD published on Monday the 30th.
Our Katy ISD dashboard will continue to be updated during the break. On the far right of the dashboard you can see the phases and the actions assigned to these phases. Confirmed COVID-19 cases exceeding 10% of the facility’s current occupancy warrant a campus closure, but anytime the Katy ISD district emergency management team determines that the spread of COVID-19 is within a student program, Campus or district workplaces cannot be contained, a partial or total closure of the program or site may also be justified.
This comes just a day after New York City announced that its schools will be completely closed due to rising COVID-19 cases. The threshold was an average positivity rate of 3%.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said, according to Harris County’s Public Health Guidelines, Harris County school districts should already be closed to face-to-face and virtual learning.
“In-person teaching is a lifeline for working parents and we all know it,” said Hidalgo. “But I also acknowledge and we have to be realistic and accept that the current facility where schools are opened before the numbers get where they need to be is getting us into some sort of ping-pong, a yo-yo Effect where we are opening schools just to see the number go up dramatically, and that’s not a sustainable situation. “
ALSO SEE: Teachers from 35 ISD locations in Houston are calling in sick to protest COVID-19 protocols
Hidalgo said Harris County is currently at the red level, with uncontrolled spread in the ward, meaning it is not the time for personal teachings or large gatherings and families should only celebrate the holidays with people in their household.
According to the Texas Education Agency, school districts can adopt the recommendations of health officials, but in the end the school principals have the final say. According to the state’s latest update on its “Pandemic School Formula,” school districts must offer in-person learning to parents who want this option for their child in order to receive full funding.
Due to the pandemic and the stress it has caused in school districts across the state, a group of Texas lawmakers is calling for the TEA to suspend the Texas state academic readiness test, or at least not use student scores to assess schools or districts in this school year.
SEE ALSO: 68 Texas Lawmakers Want The STAAR Test To Be Canceled This School Year
Allison Newport, a HISD parent of two students, said she put her kids through the practice tests and it was challenging.
“This was my first experience of how my kids take the STAAR test, you know how to do practice tests in a virtual environment,” Newport said. “It’s very stressful, even if they do well on the exam, it’s very hard to get through and I would be really happy if they didn’t have it this year and I think the students don’t need stress anymore. The teachers do We don’t need any more stress and testing doesn’t work well in this virtual mixed environment. “
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has an online dashboard of the number of cases of COVID-19 reported by Texas public schools, which shows a steady increase in reported cases for both students and staff.
The Houston Department of Health also issued the following statement on working with schools:
“The Houston Department of Health stands ready to continue providing necessary COVID-19 support and guidance to our community partners. In anticipation of the surge, the department is working closely with schools to develop containment strategies that will allow them to assess their individual circumstances. Review the resources available and then make the best decision for your facility. With the support of epidemiologists, environmental, health and safety officers, and contact tracing experts, the department can provide the best practice guidance needed for the COVID-19 response. “
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