HOUSTON – The largest school district in Texas has reopened its campuses Monday by bringing back some students for the first time this semester. HISD Superintendent Grenita Lathan and other local leaders welcomed students back during a press conference at 10:30 a.m. at Highland Heights Elementary School while discussing how to bridge the gap for the digital divide.
Lathan announced that the Moody Foundation donated $1 million to the district for the purchase of tablets and computer devices for ACHIEVE 180 schools.
The district released a 26-page reopening plan and a 133-page communicable disease plan, which includes measures for face-to-face learning, temperature checks for students and guidelines for the lunchroom.
“We are very excited and will still be cautious,” said Lathan.
Lathan said she and countless others are preparing to welcome thousands of students back to campuses for in-person learning. Right now, 196,000 students are enrolled in HISD. Since March, the district has given out 36,200 hot spots and 110,000 devices to students in need, Lathan said during the press conference Monday.
“This is truly a historic and transformational accomplishment in our district,” Lathan said.
Lathan said this accomplishment helps to close the digital divide amongst students.
“The digital divide is not only impacting the children but the parents as well,” Mayor Turner said during the press conference.
Lathan also discussed the protocol and procedures campuses will undergo to ensure safety.
According to Lathan, five out of 280 schools don’t have school nurses. School officials are working to ensure these positions are filled.
Some parents are choosing to keep their kids at home during the pandemic and others are ready to send their kids back to the classroom.
“Message to parents is number one we are prepared,” she said.
First-grade student Adeline Van Burkleo said she is excited about going back to school.
“Seeing my teacher in person and just going back,” she said.
Her mother, Liz Van Burkleo, said virtual learning has been great, but her daughter misses connecting with her teacher and interacting with her friends.
“Today she finished school at 9 a.m. and so it’s just been a bit of a challenge to keep her busy and keep her excited about it,” Liz Van Burkleo said.
But not everyone is ready to bring their kids back. Margarita falcon has two students in the district.
“My oldest daughter is a dialysis patient, my mother who I come in contact with a lot is elderly and my brother has health issues for our family it’s best for us to stay at home,” she said.
Some of the guidelines include wearing a face mask and there will also be social distancing in the lunchroom.
“For the most part lunch some campuses will have kids eating lunch in the cafeteria some in the classroom and some will have students eating outside it’s all contingent on the number of students that actually return face to face,” Lathan said.
She said parents cannot drop off lunches or personal items.
If a student shows symptoms of the virus at school, a teacher will send them to the campus nurse for evaluation.
Lathan said the district is still discussing a COVID-19 testing policy.