HOUSTON – The first Houston area school districts to welcome students back this fall will not offer virtual learning, blaming the legislature for not providing funding during the special session.
“The district no longer had the option,” a Fort Bend ISD release said. “The state legislature did not take action.”
“All learning will be in-person due to the state legislature’s failure to pass a virtual learning bill,” said an Alief ISD spokesperson.
Some parents in Fort Bend ISD have mixed emotions about students returning to school.
“We are concerned about sending her to school,” said parent Dhaval Patel. “We would like to send her [to] school, but with the coronavirus, it’s kind of a concern too.”
COVID-19 is on the minds of many, including Rogelio Robles, who has two children in the school district.
“Kind of nervous because we don’t know if they’re going to bring it back to the house, but I mean, with good faith that everything will be under control,” Robles said.
On Tuesday, Fort Bend County’s judge raised the risk level to orange, or “significant.” The county said 16% of its current COVID cases are in kids 11 years old or younger.
“Every parent should know that this is getting worse again, so we should have that in mind with their kids going back to school,” Robles said.
A Fort Bend ISD parent also started a petition to bring back virtual learning. The petition quickly received hundreds of signatures, and by Monday afternoon, more than 1,500 had signed the petition.
“I was thinking, am I the only one who’s this worried? Is it just me?” said parent Zubin Balsara. “So, I started a petition just to see if other parents feel the same.”
Balsara’s Elementary School children have done virtual school since March 2020. Many who signed the petition said their child was immunocompromised, or that they lived with an elderly relative.
“There are people who don’t believe in masks and vaccinations, and we need to respect that,” Babin said. “They have their choices -- I’m just saying give us the extra choice.”
Babin said he doesn’t blame the district, he knows its hands are “tied.”
“What I’m saying is, let’s start the conversation,” he added. “If we need to talk to TEA, let’s talk to TEA.”
Alief ISD will no longer enforce social distancing. Fort Bend ISD said it will. Both districts encourage mask-wearing, but an executive order signed by Gov. Greg Abbott prohibits any state agencies from mandating it.