Houston ISD says students will return to virtual and in-person learning after Thanksgiving break despite the Houston Federation of Teachers is pushing for HISD to go 100% virtual following the Thanksgiving break. However, HISD officials say students will return to virtual and in-person learning after the November holiday.
Andrew Dewey, executive vice president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said the teachers’ association asked HISD during a Thursday meeting to move all schools to virtual learning after Thanksgiving, due to the ongoing and alarming COVID-19 surge.
In its original reopening plan, the district noted if the average positivity rate was greater than 7% for a 14-day period, then all schools would have gone virtual. In October, HISD announced a change to its COVID-19 policy that adjusts the protocol for schools closing due to positivity rates but did not illustrate the new metrics it was based on.
On Oct. 26, the Harris County COVID-19 dashboard showed the average positivity rate for the past 14 days at 7.4%, a rate that would have called for all HISD schools to go virtual under the original policy. Even more alarming, on Nov. 17, the 14-day average was up to 8.4%, according to the Harris County COVID-19 dashboard.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo reiterated this point.
“In-person instruction is a lifeline for working parents and we all recognize that,” Hidalgo said. “But I also recognize and we have to be realistic and accept that the current set up where schools open before the numbers got to where they needed to be has us on a ping pong, of sorts, a yo-yo effect where we’re opening schools only to see numbers rise dramatically and that’s not a sustainable situation.”
“The reality is we have to go back to virtual. We thought it was a mistake to open in-person when they did. HISD, to its credit, delayed it as long as they could. Strangely enough, the surge has been going on since schools began to open up in September. It’s now again in a situation where it’s out of control. We are asking the district today to go all virtual after Thanksgiving break, at least through the end of the semester. And we understand the consequences that may be coming to the state regarding funding, but it’s time to do this, just in the name of safety,” said Dewey.
According to the Texas Education Agency, school districts can take public health authorities’ recommendations but ultimately the school leaders have the final say.