CYPRESS, Texas – A Harris County District Court judge granted Cy-Fair American Federation of Teachers a temporary restraining order that states teachers do not have to enter Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District’s school buildings, as the district had required, before Sept. 7.
“This is a win for safety, health and common sense. It was unsafe to require teachers to come to school campuses for professional development and new teacher orientation -- programs that can take place virtually,” said Nikki Cowart, president of the Cy-Fair AFT.
Nearly 7,800 educators in Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District returned to the district’s 91 different campuses Friday for professional development training and new teacher orientation, in spite of a plea from the teacher’s union to delay it.
Cowart said the union pleaded with the district to reduce the number of personnel required in school buildings with COVID-19 numbers as high as they are across the Houston area.
“Our fear was if you have 7,000 employees in these school buildings, what if teachers fall ill before September 8, before students return back to campus,” Cowart said.
The teacher’s union filed a lawsuit Friday seeking an injunction to halt the school district’s requirement that all school employees show up to their schools Friday. The lawsuit was filed after Cowart said a letter sent to the district superintendent on Aug. 6 went unanswered.
The teacher’s union wants to talk to district leaders about how to safely bring back staff for the entire school year with the proper health and safety protocols in place.
”Everyone is back today and the union has already been flooded with emails, text messages, phone calls. The teachers are utterly terrified because it’s not happening. The masks and social distancing, today, day one,” Cowart said.
She added that there’s no reason the training couldn’t be done virtually. Going forward, Cowart said a hotline for employees to share their health and safety concerns has been set up as the case works its way through the legal system.
“We’re just not ready. but once we are ready, we’re hopeful we can return back to campus, of course with our students,” Cowart said.
A follow-up hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 28.
KPRC 2 reached out to Cy-Fair ISD for comment but district officials said they don’t comment on lawsuits that are pending litigation.