HOUSTON – Houston ISD students returned for in-person learning Monday for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“I’m very excited, he’s very excited,” said one mother at Young Elementary School. “They’re taking a lot of safety measures, so I don’t feel like I have anything to worry about.”
Students and parents noticed changes even before walking inside school.
“I’m a little nervous, but I’m excited for them. They need to be back in the school environment,” said parent Kerria Lair.
Staff members will check the students' temperatures at designated entrances.
Teachers and staff are required to self-screening and check into a district app every morning.
“All HISD employees are required to check-in daily to complete a health screening so they can be cleared so they can report to work,” said HISD Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan.
Everyone must wear a mask while on campus.
There will be hand sanitizing stations and signs reminding students of social distancing.
Lathan said campuses also have space set aside for those who fall ill during the day.
“Campuses have established isolation areas for students and adults who become sick during the school day where they will be evaluated by a nurse,” she said.
As for lunchtime, Dr. Lathan said it’ll depend on each individual campus.
“Some campuses will have students eating lunch in the cafeteria. Some will have students eating lunch in the classroom, and some will have students eating lunch outside are going to be as all contingent upon the number of students that return face to face,” said Lathan
Only 56 students will be allowed in the cafeteria of Eliot Elementary School at a time.
“Students will walk into the cafeteria, they’re gonna sanitize their hands, they’re gonna get their lunch, they’re gonna go to an assigned seat,” said Principal Matthew Schwer of Eliot Elementary School.
Crews will disinfect frequently touched areas hourly. It’s all to ensure students remain healthy.
“We’re very hopeful that the parents are gonna see that we are doing what it’s gonna take to keep their children safe,” said Schwer.
The playgrounds at Eliot Elementary School were closed. Schwer said students will still have a recess in an area where they can be socially distant. The district said, for now, buses will only be available for special education, homeless, elementary and specialty school students. Twenty-six students will be allowed on each bus with one student per seat sitting by the window.
Mitchell Elementary School in Southeast Houston also opened it’s doors today. The school was rebuilt due to damage during Hurricane Harvey more than three years ago. One of four schools in the district. “It is emotional, just to see this brand new building for the families. This is a brand new home for our kids. a brand new building and a brand new place they can also call home,” said Jennifer Jackson, a Teacher Specialist at Mitchell.
In all, HISD estimated roughly 80,000 enrolled students would return for in-person learning Monday.
Lathan said HISD continues to search for students who are no longer enrolled.
“We still have about 13,000 students that have not enrolled and that was as of Friday. We are still trying to locate those students, provide them with resources so that they can definitely re-enroll,” Lathan said, adding locating those students, during the pandemic, has been a challenge.
“Our families are dealing with homelessness. We sill have families that are dealing with so many other challenges that they were experiencing pre-COVID,” she said.