Last week, Cy-Fair ISD’s advice to teachers with health conditions was to "bring in a air purifier from your home or find a closet in the school and work there."
The statewide COVID positivity rate is still over 20% and, as of last week, it was 17% in Houston. More than anything, our governor needs to do his job. Send Governor Abbott a letter. [LINK HERE].
But, in the meantime, Cy-Fair ISD needs to take better safety precautions for the students, teachers, and students in its district.
Cy-Fair ISD teachers have been told to report to work for in-person professional development this Friday. Last week, Cy-Fair ISD’s advice to teachers with health conditions was to "bring in a air purifier from your home or find a closet in the school and work there."
The Houston Chronicle reports that Cypress-Fairbanks ISD joins Katy, Spring Branch, Magnolia ISDs and others in bringing students back to physical classrooms the day after Labor Day.
Last night, teachers and parents protested the Cy-Fair decision and spoke at the board meeting. You can read the full story below the Red4Ed reminder.
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Below is the Houston Chronicle article about the Cy-Fair reopening plan.
Her hair still short after enduring chemotherapy treatments, Gabriela Kulp pleaded with Cypress-Fairbanks ISD’s board of trustees like her life depended on it.
“Please, I beg you, think about us,” Kulp said. “I don’t want to go into the school right now. I’m a single parent. Who’s going to take care of my kids if I get sick?”
Kulp was among dozens of teachers at Cy-Fair ISD who came a school board meeting Monday to voice their disdain for the district’s reopening plans. They lined Jones Road in front of the district’s instructional support center, flashing posterboard signs asking district officials and trustees what they would do if teachers and students get sick and died of COVID-19 once schools reopen on Sept. 8.
More than 4,000 people crowd the halls of Cypress Ranch High School in normal times, Kulp said Monday night.
Kulp said she loves teaching chemistry to the students there, and wants to be back with them as soon as she can. That time, she said, is not now. Not when she’s still weak from fighting breast cancer. Not on Friday, when teachers will be required to report back to their campuses for three weeks of professional development. And not on Sept. 8, when schools will open to all students who decided they would prefer to learn in-person rather than online.
The teachers who attended the board meeting also worried that infections could begin spreading among them as soon as professional development begins on Friday. Many, including Lesley Guilmart, asked that teachers have the option to do training online “so as many of us as possible are healthy on the first day of school.”
“Why risk infecting people before then?” Guilmart said.
Monday’s comments were emblematic of debates happening across the country about how to reopen schools safely this fall, conversations that have turned political in recent weeks.
Many Republicans, including President Donald Trump and Gov. Greg Abbott, have argued that students learn better in schools and that keeping them closed will have an out-sized impact on the economy. Many Democrats, including Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, and teachers’ groups have argued that opening schools in communities with high rates of community spread will lead to a new wave of infections that could claim the lives of teachers and students alike.
Guidance and requirements at the state level have also changed several times over the summer as school leaders tried to plan for fall. Under the most recent guidelines, schools can start the school year virtually for up to four weeks, and can apply for a waiver to keep students learning remotely for an additional four weeks. However, schools would need to open to any students who lack the technology or internet access to learn online.
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD joins Katy, Spring Branch, Magnolia ISDs and others in bringing students back to physical classrooms the day after Labor Day.
Only Humble, Barbers Hill and Galveston ISDs plan to bring all students who chose in-person instruction back to campuses earlier. Others, including Houston ISD and KIPP Public Schools, won’t bring students back until October, Fort Bend and Alief ISDs have not yet put a firm start date for in-person instruction.
The latest testing data shows the positive rate for COVID-19 tests is about 20.99 percent statewide as of Monday, and about 17.6 percent in greater Houston as of last week. However, data from the Texas Medical Center shows daily hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients have been steadily declining for the past month, and there is a negative 2 percent daily growth rate in hospitalizations. Still, intensive care unit beds are at 101 percent capacity.
On Monday, one woman wore a velvet cloak and a grim reaper outfit outside, although the heat index was 106 degrees when the board meeting began in suburban Northwest Houston.
A 64-year-old middle school teacher wore a full hazmat suit. She would not give her name out of fear for her job, but said she lives in a 55+ senior community. She worries that she could spread the virus to her neighbors when she walks into the building after work each night.
“I just want to make it to 65,” the teacher said. “It’s just not safe until the positive test rate is down to 5 percent.”
After 20 teachers, community members and students asked the board to delay in-person instruction, trustees said their hands were tied. While they said they empathized with teachers’ concerns, they said the state mandates gave them and Superintendent Mark Henry’s team little leeway to change current back-to-school plans.
Board President Bob Covey pushed back on the notion that teacher feedback hadn’t been considered in reopening plans, saying that three unions were consulted and four teachers and two paraprofessionals sat on the district’s reopening committee.
Trustee Dr. John Ogletree said Henry and other administrators tried to make a “workable” solution with the data and state guidance they had.
“I think we should all remember and think about how we’ve been put in this very uncomfortable situation in opening our schools,” Ogletree said. “It is due to our political leaders, and some have put politics over science.”
The lack of local change after Monday’s meeting frustrated Arabella Villanueva, an orchestra teacher at Thorton Middle School who lost her uncle to COVID-19 in March. She said the board was more transparent in explaining the state and federal restrictions they must follow in reopening schools, but said it did not seem like trustees realize teachers are stuck in enclosed spaces with as many as 40 students at a time.
Villanueva said she has been sneezed on, coughed on and even licked in school — something she said other essential workers such as grocery store employees do not have to face.
“I just feel extremely gaslit and very disappointed,” she said. “I do hear there are some wheels turning, that some considerations are being made. But some of them are just really fighting the idea that our lives might be important.”