While Lamar Consolidated ISD continues to work to open its schools this August, other schools in Fort Bend and Harris counties are not opening schools until after Labor Day.
The rise in COVID-19 cases in the Houston region has forced several school districts to provide online-only learning capabilities for the first few weeks of the school year.
On Friday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo ordered all public schools and non-religious private schools in the county to remain closed until Sept. 8, and said that the order could be expanded further, if the spread of the virus continues to be at a high rate.
“The last thing we want are closures,” Hidalgo tweeted. “But we can’t open until we dramatically reduce spread. The harder we work to crush the curve the sooner kids can responsibly return.”
Fort Bend ISD, Katy ISD and Stafford MSD are three districts in the county that have opted to remain closed at least until after Labor Day. Needville ISD joins LCISD in plans to open schools in August.
The spread of the virus is higher in Harris County than in Fort Bend County. But an outbreak of the virus in the schools can still happen in the county.
But LCISD is still continuing with its plans to open their schools on Aug. 24, even as Fort Bend County saw 116 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as well as seven deaths.
LCISD assistant superintendent and chief of staff Dr. Mike Rockwood said that the district starting later than the other districts in the area allows them to prepare longer to open the schools.
But while LCISD formed its guidelines from the CDC and the Texas Education Agency, the call to open the schools may come from Fort Bend County Judge KP George and the county’s health director, Dr. Jacqueline Minter.
Health departments in Austin and El Paso made the call to keep schools shut until later in the fall, despite the TEA’s call to open schools with safety measures.
The TEA later allowed school districts to operate online-only for the first three weeks of the school year.
But LCISD is continuing to make plans to provide both in-person and online learning, and is purchasing loads of personal protective equipment to give to students and staff.
“We continue to make purchases of PPE, and we have received and still receiving state allocations of different items of PPE,” LCISD chief financial officer Jill Ludwig told the board of trustees in a special board meeting last week.
The district has received 7,800 face shields, 92,000 child-size disposable masks, 218,000 adult-size disposable masks, 224,000 adult reusable masks, 260 infrared thermometers, and 3,680 gallons of hand sanitizer from the state, while waiting on gloves and reusable child-size masks.
Supt. Dr. Thomas Randle said that more PPE is on the way.
LCISD is asking parents to fill out a commitment form to confirm which kind of education program they want to use, either in-person or online. The form is available on their website, www.lcisd.org.