The upcoming school year is on the minds of many: students, parents and especially teachers. One of their biggest concerns is staying safe while teaching children in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Very scared, very anxious, very worried,” said one teacher describing how she feels about returning to the classroom in just a few weeks.
She didn’t want her identity shown because she’s worried about losing the job, which she thinks could inevitably kill her.
“You have to work. You have to go back to pay bills. So there really is no choice. There is no choice,” she said.
Teachers sound off
All around the Houston and surrounding areas, thousands of teachers in our school districts are in the same tough spot. The struggle to juggle safety and still keep their jobs.
KPRC 2 heard from many of them who had concerns ranging from sick coworkers to consoling their young students while also trying to social distance.
One 3rd grade teacher said this:
“My current fear with returning to a building is how long it could take to heal after getting sick. A family member has had it for a month now, and due to his experience with it, he is adamant that I do not return to school and endanger my life or my children. I have another child who has been hospitalized multiple times due to his asthma. My family member has offered to help me financially, covering my salary if necessary because he is so afraid of my household experiencing what he is currently going through.”
A 5th-grade teacher expresses genuine concern for her children if she dies because of the virus:
“I have pre-existing conditions which put me at a higher risk for mortality. My concern with returning to school is that I would inevitably become infected and leave my kids parentless.”
This high school teacher was concerned about time off to quarantine:
“I’m concerned that if one of my colleagues comes to school with the virus, am I expected to use my sick days to quarantine myself, and how will this affect other members of my household.”
And yet another had questions about how to be there for her students, safely from a distance:
“My biggest concern with returning to school is not being able to provide one on one instruction because of social distancing.”
The Houston Teachers Federation is one of the biggest teacher’s unions in Texas. Though online learning is not ideal for most, the HTF representatives say it is a vastly safer choice for students, teachers, and families.
Andy Dewey, Vice President of HFT says, the alternative is just not a safe option.
“You could have one out of four people in that building infected, getting ready to infect many, many more. They do not want to go to work, get infected, and bring it home to their families.”
Moving into a new school year
On July 15th, HISD’s Superintendent announced the district’s 210,000 students will start their school year on September 8. For the first six weeks, all classes will be online only.
Then the choice will fall on parents on whether to stay online or get back to class. Teachers will likely have that critical decision made for them.
Katy ISD will have teachers in classrooms from day one. So will Conroe ISD, Lamar Consolidated, Spring Branch, Pasadena, Alief, Humble, and Galena Park ISD. Tens of thousands of students are expected to be back on campus and in class.
“I also want to point out that school employees are also parents as well. They have the same decisions as everybody else has to make. If they were required to go back to work, well their decision was taken away from them.”
As for one of the teachers we spoke with, she’s looking at all her options even if it means not returning to class at all.
“I have it in my head I’ll use (the) sick days I have until they run out, I guess,” she said. “I know everybody’s got a different feel about the virus. Some people say its fake, some people say it’s not. We don’t know. I don’t want to be used as a guinea pig to figure it out.”
Below is a breakdown of each District’s plan:
Katy Independent School District will welcome students back to school on August 19 through both in-person and virtual instruction.
Alief ISD will offer in-person and virtual learning beginning August 6.
Humble ISD has developed three options so that parents can choose what works best for each child. On June 24, each guardian received an email with a link to submit your child’s reservation for one of the three options:
- On-Campus Instruction: For secondary schools, students would likely begin the year with blended learning, participating both on-campus and online on an A/B daily schedule. Details for elementary and secondary schools are posted in the On-Campus FAQ section below.
- Online Instruction with Asynchronous learning: Students are not always online at the same time. Teachers post instructional plans/learning sets, teaching in large groups, small groups and individually.
- Online Instruction for UIL Athletics and Fine Arts On Campus (middle and high school students)
Spring Branch ISD:
Families will be asked to choose an initial nine-weeks schooling option online by July 31 or submit the learning model selection form at the student’s campus by July 22.
Spring Branch ISD’s first day for in-person classes is Aug. 17.
Pasadena ISD starts on August 18 with flexible learning. Superintendent Powell said whether students learn on campus or virtually, teachers will be instructing students on campus. Parents can decide, which method is right for their students before the beginning of the school year.
HISD will begin the first day of school virtually on September 8.
Face-to-face instruction begins on October 19, which is 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.
Fort Bend ISD:
Fort Bend ISD will start the 2019-20 school year 100 percent online on August 12 to best protect the well-being of our students and staff.
At this time, KPRC 2 does not know how long online instruction will continue.
Aldine ISD’s re-entry plan, Return to Learn, will now have all students learning virtually from home for at least the first three weeks of the 2020-2021 school year. The 2020-21 school year begins on August 17.
*** (not announced yet)
Cy-Fair ISD is expected to releases its reopening plan on July 27. The plan is expected to include in-person instruction and remote instruction, including the process for parents to select which method they prefer for their child(ren).
Galena Park ISD:
Galena Park ISD is planning for parents to select one of two available options: face-to-face learning or remote learning. The district is expected to finalize the plan by July 22.