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FAQs: Answers to most-asked questions during our Ask 2 Live chat with HISD about going back to school

The Houston Independent School District’s school year begins on Tuesday, September 8, with virtual classes for all students. Optional in-person classes begin October 19, but parents can opt to continue online, virtual learning for the remainder of the semester or even the entire school year.

The district partnered with KPRC 2 to host a phone bank and an Ask 2 Live Chat Friday afternoon to answer parents’ questions ahead of the start of the school year. The district has gathered online resources to help which can be accessed here.

Here are some of the most asked questions and answers:

Q: What is the plan for the 2020-2021 school year?

HISD: All students will begin the 2020-2021 school year virtually on September 8, 2020. Virtual instruction for all students will continue for six weeks through Friday, October 16, 2020. On Monday, October 19, 2020, face-to-face instruction for all students will begin. However, this date is subject to change based on COVID-19 conditions across the city of Houston and recommendations from local, state, and federal health officials. Parents will have the option to opt-out of face-to-face instruction entirely for the fall semester and school year.

Q: What is the timeline?

HISD: September 8, 2020: First day of school (Virtual only)

October 19, 2020: Face-to-face instruction begins – subject to change based on COVID-19 conditions across the city of Houston and guidance from local, state, and federal health officials.

September 8 – January 29: First semester of remote learning for students/parents who choose online-only instruction.

*Parents will have the option to choose remote instruction for the fall semester (through January 29) or entire school year (through June 11).

Q: How was the reopening plan formulated?

HISD: The HISD Communicable Disease Plan Task Force, a group of key employees, educators, parents, community members, and health care officials, was charged with reviewing safety guidance from local, state, and federal health and education officials. The district also considered feedback from parent and teacher surveys distributed over the summer. The HISD Academics team developed an Instructional Continuity Plan to ensure that learning will continue throughout the year. This plan provides a robust framework that expands on the current HISD @ H.O.M.E. at-home learning platform and provides additional guidance and support for any future extended periods of closure.

Q: Will parents have the option to continue virtual instruction for their students?

HISD: Yes. Parents may elect to have their children continue to participate in virtual instruction for a portion of the year or the entire school year.

Q: What will be required from parents who decide to continue remote instruction?

HISD: Parents choosing this option must attend a virtual class outlining expectations and sign an agreement committing to virtual learning for the semester.

Q: What information will be used to determine whether to keep or push back the target date?

HISD: The district will remain in close contact with federal, state and local health and education officials and make necessary adjustments to the target dates for in-person instruction if COVID-19 conditions change.

Q: What is the plan for return of school staff members to campuses?

HISD: August 24th - September 4th (Teachers report virtually)

September 8th – October 16th (1st six weeks of instruction will be virtual)

All other district employees will continue to work virtually and will be notified by their direct supervisor regarding the date they will be expected to return to the office.

Q: What safety protocols will be in place at district schools and facilities?

HISD: Safety protocols will include requiring all HISD employees, students, and visitors to undergo entry screenings, wear face coverings, wash hands regularly, and practice physical distancing. The district will provide enough hand soap, paper towels, tissues, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant to accommodate frequent cleaning of high-touch areas. Additionally, it will be mandatory for nurses, custodial staff, food service workers, and special education staff to wear gloves.

Q: What should classrooms look like to ensure physical distancing measures are in place?

HISD: Classrooms must be reconfigured to ensure physical distancing, with student-teacher ratios capped at one teacher for every 10 students. Students will have staggered schedules and alternate between in-person and virtual learning to accommodate the limitations. Student assemblies will be held virtually. All campus-based employees and students must follow infection and high-touch area protocols. Schools should limit visitors and assign a team to notify their communities of the updated visitation procedures. Campuses must establish isolation areas for students and adults who are flagged during entry screening.

Q: How often will schools be sanitized?

HISD: HISD Facilities, Maintenance, and Operations employees will follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines regarding the cleaning, sanitation, and disinfection of district facilities. The district will provide enough hand soap, paper towels, tissues, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant to accommodate frequent cleaning of high-touch areas.

Q: How do parents obtain technology for their child(ren) during virtual learning?

HISD: Parents should contact their campus for the technology needed for virtual learning.

Q: Will students be provided with meals at school?

HISD: Nutrition Services will provide breakfast, lunch, snacks, and afterschool suppers in classrooms for students engaged in in-person learning. Curbside meals will be available for students enrolled in virtual learning. Employees will continue to accommodate student health, medical, and special dietary needs, as well as allergy concerns. Department employees will follow public health hygiene recommendations and enhance custodial cleaning and surface disinfection.

Q: What will extracurricular and fine arts activities look like in the fall?

HISD: Extracurricular activities will follow the same safety practices employed on school campuses during the school day. School-based extracurricular activities will resume when in-person instruction begins. Face coverings must be made available to and worn by students and teachers during all extracurricular activities. Student sporting events are tentatively scheduled for the fall, but HISD Athletics will adjust plans as needed if COVID-19 conditions change. Fine Arts will reduce class sizes and maintain guidelines for physical distancing. Students will not be allowed to share personal belongings, equipment or other items, including computers and uniforms. Dance students must have their own water bottle, hand sanitizer, mask, dance shoes, and/or dance bag.

Q: Will any field trips take place in the fall?

HISD: Field trips for all grade levels will not be held until the district receives guidance that it has been deemed safe for students to visit non-HISD facilities.

You can get more answers from the videos below: