With COVID-19 cases continuing to climb across the Houston region, two local school districts have decided to offer a limited number of students who are not yet comfortable in returning to school.

Lamar Consolidated ISD and Fort Bend ISD are both working on virtual learning programs that will have a limited number of students. FBISD said on Sunday that it is working on a virtual school with limited enrollment over the weekend and will release more details this week.

Meanwhile, an LCISD spokesperson said that the district will also offer a limited number of students into its virtual instruction program, but with little details about it at the moment.

“The district is still researching options and will communicate details to parents and staff soon,” LCISD community relations director Lindsey Sanders said.

Three parents of LCISD students came to Thursday’s board workshop with concerns of sending their children to school without a mask mandate.

Heather Foster, a mother of a Reading Junior High School student, said to the board that the district is “not doing enough” and wanted the district to offer an online option for students from kindergarten to the sixth grade.

FBISD changed its decision to offer a virtual school after an online petition that has over 3,800 signatures asking the district to offer an online option for students from kindergarten to the sixth grade. FBISD schools will have its first day of school on Wednesday.

On Friday, the district released information on why it would not offer a virtual program by saying that the costs of a virtual school without state and federal funding would cost the district $33 million.

“Financial data shows a remote learning program could result in a total loss of $33 million for the district,” FBISD Acting Supt. Diana Sayavedra said. “Previous state funding for virtual schools expired last school year and the state legislature failed to act on a bill during the last session that would have funded a virtual learning option in the new school year.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that it recommends all students and teachers to wear masks in schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Children ages 11 years and younger are not approved yet to get the vaccine.

Neither LCISD nor FBISD will implement a mask mandate due to Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates and vaccine mandates to be implemented by any local government or state entity. FBISD did say it “strongly encourages” everyone to wear masks, while LCISD said it would not discriminate against anyone who decides to wear a mask or not.

However, both Houston ISD and Dallas ISD plan to have all students and staff to wear masks at school, defying the governor’s order.

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