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Schools in Harris County ordered to close until at least September, Judge Hidalgo says

HOUSTON – Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo held a news conference Friday where they announced schools would be ordered to close.

According to Hidalgo, she and Turner along with health experts, Dr. Umair Shah, of Harris County Public Health, and Dr. David Persse, of the Houston Health Department, signed an order that all public and non-religious private schools are to remain closed until at least Sept. 8.

“Let me be clear, this is until at least Sept. 8, (but) more likely than not, Sept. 8 is too soon,” Hidalgo said. “I owe everything I have to public schools ... The last thing I want to do I shut down a brick and mortar representation of the American Dream.”

Hidalgo said the order does not stop schools from starting virtual learning before Sept. 8. if they so choose.

According to Hidalgo, the start of on-campus learning and activities could be delayed further depending on the positivity rate, hospitalizations and other coronavirus metrics.

“I am not going to raise false hopes,” Hidalgo said. “In part, that is what got us to where we are in this moment. Even if we do meet benchmarks that tell us it’s safe to resume in-person instruction, it’s not going to be all students back all at once.”

Hidalgo said the community has to work with the reality of the situation and not false hope if schools are to reopen and things are to get back to normal.

“Right no,w we continue to see severe and uncontrolled spread of the virus and it would be self-defeating to reopen schools as usual for in-person instruction,” Hidalgo said.

Turner echoed the sentiment saying the COVID-19 positivity rate and hospitalizations are at unacceptable levels and we should not be talking about sending students back when the numbers are not under control.

“We are at a critical moment in the fight against COVID-19,” Turner said. “In order for us to have some degree of confidence ... (the) positivity rate must be driven down.”

Turner said no one wants children to fall behind or miss out on seeing their friends in person, but the community has to do its part to help keep them safe as well as teachers and other school staff.

“Saving lives and slowing the virus from spreading are the city of Houston’s top priorities,” Turner said. “We can do that by delaying in-person, face-to-face instruction at minimum until Sept. 8.”

According to Shah, when the transmission is uncontrolled in the community, it is not the time to send nearly 1 million students in Harris County back to school. That is not safe, Shah said.

“It’s not just about protecting our children,” Shah said. “Those children are dependent on all of us ... to make sure we do the right things, we model those behaviors that are going to allow them to have the same experiences that all of us had when we were children by being able to go back to school in person.”

According to Persse, closing the schools is a strategy to buy us even more time to get the virus under control as a community.

“We have got to slow this down and we have got to slow this down a lot,” Persse said.

The new order had minimal impact on several districts that had already decided to push back the date students would be allowed back to campus. Prior to the order HISD, Spring and Katy were among several districts that decided to remain online only until Spetember.

Other districts, like Humble ISD, are now having to make major adjustments to their start of the school year. Humble ISD officials planned to allow students back on campus on August 11th. District officials said 65-percent of parents supported this move.

Now the district is forced to go online only and is asking parents if they want to keep the August 11th school start date. Below is the survey sent by Humble ISD:

a.) Classes begin online for all on Tuesday, Aug. 11 and hopefully online and on campus on Sept. 8. (Teachers report Aug. 3) No on campus extracurriculars until at least Sept. 8 under the current order.

b.) Classes begin online for all on Tuesday, Aug. 18 and hopefully online and on campus Sept. 8. (Teachers report Aug. 10) No on campus extracurriculars until at least Sept. 8 under the current order. (This change requires no October break because of state requirements for operational minutes and teacher contractual days)

c.) Classes begin online for all on Tuesday, Aug. 25 and hopefully online and on campus on Sept. 8. (Teachers report Aug. 13) (This change requires no October and February breaks because of state requirements for operational minutes and teacher contractual days.)

d.) Classes begin on campus and online on Tuesday, Sept. 8. (Teachers report Aug. 18) (This change requires no October and February breaks, classes until Tuesday, June 4, and no late arrival/early release at middle and high schools, because of state requirements for operational minutes and teacher contractual day

Watch the full news conference below:

🔴 WATCH LIVE: Turner, Hidalgo make announcement on school closures

Posted by KPRC2 / Click2Houston on Friday, July 24, 2020

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