HOUSTON – Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo laid out a new color-coded plan Wednesday to help schools in Harris County reopen safely amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The health authorities in both Harris County and Houston signed a joint order in late July that shuttered schools to in-person instruction until at least Sept. 8, but that order was thrown into question after the state’s attorney general said he doesn’t believe local officials have the authority to keep schools closed.
Hidalgo said that over the past few weeks that she had heard from school leaders, parents and teachers about their concern about opening schools to soon.
Despite the state preventing local governments from limiting reopening schools, Hidalgo said they were responsible for providing the community with clear guidance, hence the road map to reopening.
The county judge said COVID-19 continues to spread through the community at an unacceptable level. Schools are a part of the fabric of the community, and according to Hidalgo, students, parents and teachers move about the community, so people cannot pretend schools are in a vacuum.
Hidalgo said the road map is a data-driven plan designed to put Harris County schools back on track for a safe a realistic reopening.
The road map is divided into a color-coded system much like the Harris County COVID-19 Threat Level System.
Here’s how it will operate:
- Red: All schools should be closed to in-person instruction and activities
- Orange: School districts following a plan approved by Harris County Public Health may consider in-person instruction and activities for certain priority populations while not exceeding 25% capacity or 500 students, whichever is lower, in buildings or rooms
- Yellow: School districts following a plan approved by Harris County Public Health may consider in-person instruction and activities while not exceeding 50% capacity or 1,000 students, whichever is lower, in buildings or rooms
- Green: School districts following a plan approved by Harris County Public Health may resume in-person instruction at their usual capacity
Schools operating at a reduced capacity should be able to maintain social distancing and other health guidelines, according to Hidalgo.
“In-person learning is vital for the educational development and social well-being of children and young adults, but right now it is simply not safe to return to in-person learning,” Hidalgo said. “By committing to a common set of rules we can reduce the likelihood of see-sawing between opening and closing, which harms our students and exhausts our community.”
Dr. Umair Shah with Harris County Public Health said he believes these are achievable metrics.
“We can do this if we work together,” Shah said.
He urged adults to be role models for children and to help guide them through this difficult time.
“We wholeheartedly advocate for students to return to in-person learning and school activities, however, we are still in the midst of the pandemic, and it is simply not safe for our kids to do so at this time,” Shah said. “Kids are not immune from COVID-19 and can transmit the virus to others, who may be at high risk. By protecting our children, we protect our community.”
To read the full plan and learn more about the latest COVID-19 trends visit www.ReadyHarris.org.
Watch the full news conference below:
🔴WATCH LIVE: Judge Lina Hidalgo discusses school reopening plan for Harris CountyPosted by KPRC2 / Click2Houston on Wednesday, August 12, 2020