Health Houston Safety

Houston: Schools Not Ready to Reopen in Midst of Pandemic Surge, Board and Union Agree

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HOUSTON—Texas AFT and the Houston Federation of Teachers fully support the Houston Independent School District’s reopening plan announced today, which calls for delaying the start of the new school year and using an all-virtual format for at least six weeks.

The new school year will start Sept. 8 for six weeks, through Oct. 16, after which either virtual instruction will be extended or face-to-face learning will resume with safety measures to protect students, teachers and other school employees.

“At this time, given the out-of-control conditions of COVID-19 in Houston, virtual learning is the safest option for Houston families and educators. It is our mission as professionals to provide the best and safest way to deliver instruction, no matter what method,” said Texas AFT President Zeph Capo.

Capo said HISD’s plan to start the year with distance learning is the right reopening plan for current conditions and stands in stark contrast to the hybrid plan announced today by Spring Branch ISD, a neighboring suburban district. The Spring Branch district asked parents to choose between in-school and distance learning, which both will start in August.

“To even consider bringing students and educators into a Houston-area school building right now is insanely irresponsible,” Capo said.

Capo said the Sept. 8 to Oct. 16 period of distance learning should give officials the time to determine the efficacy of returning to in-school learning.

“This should give us time to determine if someone from the local or state government will step up and lead us into a safer tomorrow. The medicine may be harsh, but it is necessary to shut down all nonessential functions to get this virus under control. That is the only safe course of action to give us a fighting chance to open schools for our preferred in-person delivery model,” Capo said.

“The HFT has recommended an all-virtual start for Houston schools and a delay of in-school learning until there has been a decline of COVID-19 cases over 14 consecutive days, plus a positive test rate of less than 5 percent and a transmission rate under 1 percent,” said HFT Executive Vice President Andy Dewey.

Texas AFT called on state leaders to ensure that all school districts across the state receive the flexibility required to safely educate children while receiving adequate funding necessary to deliver high-quality virtual learning, including digital devices and universal free internet service.

Capo acknowledged the efforts of HISD Board President Sue Deigaard and other urban school district colleagues in fighting for local control so that Austin doesn’t dictate the day-to-day operations of any school district.

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