Texas’ most populous county ordered Friday that all public and nonreligious private schools stay closed and provide online learning until after Labor Day due to concern over the continued spread of the new coronavirus.
A joint public health order from Harris County and city of Houston health officials states schools must remain closed until at least Sept. 8. But the order could be extended beyond that date, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said.
“We do not want our kids to fall behind, but we must do what we can to keep them, our teachers, bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, school support staff, and safer,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “We can help save lives by further delaying the opening of our schools. COVID-19 positivity rates are at an all-time high. It is very difficult to see these numbers on the rise and talk about returning our children to school.”
“Sending students, teachers and staff into classrooms while this virus is still spreading uncontrollably is not only unsafe for the people in the schools, it’s dangerous for their families, friends and the entire community,” said Dr. David Persse, City of Houston Local Health Authority.
“In order for students to be able to learn and grow, they must also be healthy and safe,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “Right now, we continue to see a severe and uncontrolled spread of this virus and it would be self-defeating to reopen schools as usual for in-person instruction. We are all desperate to move on from this crisis and get life back to normal. Sept. 8 is still likely too soon, but the truth is, the fastest way we can all work together to bring this virus under control, the sooner we will be in a position to reopen again for the long term.”
In addition to the suspension of in person instruction, the order includes the following:
- Virtual instruction is allowed consistent with individual district or school academic plans. Instructors may use classrooms for video streaming if they are alone in the classroom and building occupancy does not exceed 10%.
- All school sponsored events and activities, including but not limited to clubs, sports, extra-curricular activities, fairs, exhibitions, academic and/or athletic competitions, must not take place in-person, on or off campus, until school systems resume on-campus instruction.
- By no later than Friday, August 21, 2020, each School System shall develop and submit a written plan with safety and health protocols for resuming in-person instruction and extracurricular activities to the Local Health Authority with jurisdiction over the school. School systems must make the plan available to parents and the general public.