While the lion's share of the blame for not protecting the safety and well-being of the schoolchildren and educators in Texas rests on the governor, our school districts must be held accountable for weak plans.
The HISD school board must hear your story about reopening. Can you sign up here to speak at the board meeting on Thursday? Sign up by 9:30 am for the Oct 1 Agenda Item A2(about reopening) or sign up for the Oct 8 Board meeting with Agenda Item B3 (community engagement.) Incredulously, COVID is not even on the Oct 8 HISD Board meeting agenda set by the Board President.
Speakers must sign up by 9:30 am on Thursday. Speakers to agenda items usually speak at the beginning of a board meeting at around 5 pm. You will not receive a zoom link to speak. Instead, you will receive a call at around 5pm to your phone from a NY number. You will be muted and when it is your turn to speak, the HISD staff person will speak into the phone and, will simply say “your name and tell you to begin.” If you are watching the board meeting, mute the volume since there is a 30 second delay. If you need assistance, email [email protected].
Here are three main talking points.
- Blame the governor for using funding to hold districts hostage but hold our district accountable for the lives of students and educators.
- Delay the reopening until the end of October or later because the safety of our schools, students and communities must come first. We need a phased-in return. The default should be virtual for parents who did not choose an option instead of face-to-face. 50,000-100,000 people returning all on Oct 19 is reckless.
- Tell your story. Neither the HISD interim superintendent nor the board members have eyes on the ground. Be their eyes and ears.
Below are some additional talking points. Pick what resonates with you to strengthen your speech or email to the board.
We need a more robust plan than what HISD has provided. Plans need details and “social distancing when possible” is not acceptable. We need a free rapid test and contact trace program in place. Students eating in the classroom without masks is no plan at all to #protectstudents and #protecteducators.
Black and Latinx communities have been disproportionately harmed by COVID.What plans are in place to ensure that people disproportionately harmed by COVID will not experience even higher numbers of COVID cases and deaths?
There needs to be more support for educators. Custodians are doing double and triple work to ready the schools with ZERO additional support. Teachers are working dawn to midnight providing virtual instruction with no support in sight. This is not business as usual and policies should reflect that. Let’s get real. This is two jobs.
HISD needs to treat parents as partners. HISD should have been completely transparent about what face to face instruction would look like. They waited until the last minute to inform parents that they had reduced social distancing safety protections from 6 ft to 3 ft and raised class size limits to 20-25 students.
At least 204,376 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States, putting us at among the highest rate of COVID-19 deaths per capita. The CDC has faced political pressure from the Trump administration to downplay the risks of in-person school this fall. A teacher in HISD said that each week since school started one or more of her students have told her about a death in their family due to COVID.
The Texas governor is not using the office of the governor to protect students and educators. Abbott is holding funding hostage to face to face reopening, making districts jump through hoops by applying for waivers Abbott has neglected to implement any real safety standards in schools. In other states, the protocol is to keep schools closed until COVID is contained. Abbott has deferred authority to school districts instead of taking a stand for safety statewide. Abbott has provided no state oversight to see if districts are actually following promised procedures. The state COVID tracker only provides district-level data and only that which is self-reported.
HISD’s reopening & communicable disease plan (links here) establishes standards but there are no strategies and details. It is like calling a table of contents a plan.
- Returning with 50-60% of students for face to face will lead to another COVID spike.Schools do not have a plan for so many kids returning face to face, up to 60% in some schools.
- HISD has reduced social distancing to 3 feet “when possible.” This is not social distancing. There could be 20-25 students per class.
- The plan for lunch is no plan at all. Students taking masks off for 30 minutes in an enclosed space shreds any safety effect from wearing a mask the rest of the day. For 30 minutes per day everyone will have close contact, and any particles expelled in the air in that time will remain.Kids need to eat outside.
- There’s been little to no attention to ventilation and airflow, key with a deadly airborne virus. Dallas ISD has ordered air purifiers which is a step in the right direction.
- Hygiene theater is not safety: Will the safety measures make us safe, or make it look safe? District says they will be social distancing “when possible” Temperature checks may catch some cases but a large percentage of people with contagious COVID are asymptomatic.
- There are no clear plans shared with the public about how HISD is conducting COVID testing and contract tracing, if at all. The lesson learned from other districts is that if you do not have a plan in place for COVID testing and contact tracing, then people are sent home for a day and return without getting tested. There must be free rapid response testing in schools. How are we going to have a safe reopening when, one week after many students return, students will be taking the PSAT and SAT tests?
- We should not be grading kids who do not have computers or well-functioning wifi.
Thank you, HISD, for being a leader. Don’t stop now. If we cannot spend the money to make people safe, we should stay virtual.