Make no mistake, HISD is very concerned about testing -- just not for COVID-19. While positivity rates for the coronavirus climb, the district once again changed the rules that are supposed to keep students and teachers safe during the pandemic. Our teachers and students need real protections, not moving targets.
For the second time in a week Houston ISD officials have changed their original plans for confronting COVID-19. Previously, a 7 percent positivity rate in Harris County was supposed to trigger a return to all-virtual learning. The district is not sticking to this plan, and has not specified what new metrics they will now analyze. This means the information teachers and families have used to make life and death decisions is basically worthless and the district has not provided any guidance as more staff and students test positive for COVID-19 every day.
Meanwhile, the school board met last night, but not to talk about the pandemic or what needs to be done to protect our community’s health. In fact, when Trustee Anne Sung recommended a goal about health and safety for students and staff, it did not get adopted in the final list of goals. Even the fine arts goal that the community recommended was denied.
Instead, they adopted new high-stakes testing standards for kindergarten, which will apply extra pressure to students and teachers who are already facing unprecedented challenges. This is not the way to measure well-being or learning for five-year-olds and would be dismissed out of hand were the students affluent. So, we got more testing, but not the kind we need.
We are all being put at risk by Governor Abbott's decision to reopen schools on a timeline set months ago. His edict to open our schools for in-person instruction “or risk losing funding” is completely unrelated to the actual situation on the ground in Houston. Nonetheless, HISD has not applied for an additional waiver to allow the district to extend virtual education. The district needs to use the tools it has to keep teachers, students, staff, and families safe. This is not happening.
Last week, close to 200 teachers at more than 45 campuses called in sick to get COVID tests to demand a safer learning environment for their students and themselves during the pandemic. The community must stand with teachers and staff who are risking their health to educate our children by supporting them as they speak out for safer working conditions.
HISD listens to parents - if you have children in HISD, tell the district to protect our teachers. Here are the emails of the interim superintendent and the trustees:Sue.Deigaard@houstonisd.org, firstname.lastname@example.org, Judith.Cruz@houstonisd.org, Patricia.Allen2@houstonisd.org, Daniela.Hernandez@houstonisd.org, Elizabeth.Santos@houstonisd.org, Holly.email@example.com, Kathy.BluefordDaniels@houstonisd.org, Anne.Sung@houstonisd.org, firstname.lastname@example.org