Harris County Health Authority Dr. Umair Shah and Houston Health Authority Dr. David Persse issued a joint public order today requiring in-person instruction at local and non-religious private …
Harris County Health Authority Dr. Umair Shah and Houston Health Authority Dr. David Persse issued a joint public order today requiring in-person instruction at local and non-religious private schools to delay in-person instruction until Sept. 8. In a press conference with Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and State Representative Armando Walle (D – Houston) where they announced the order, stating their reasoning for delaying school openings is that the COVID-19 pandemic is still too dangerous to open schools.
Shah said he understood parents concerns as they watch their children go through the pandemic which is unlike anything older Americans saw in their childhoods.
I think we have to remember, and (Hidalgo) and (Turner) said this and I want to echo – when you have transmission that is high in our community, is uncontrolled in our community, of COVID-19, and we’re seeing increases in patients and also deaths that are occurring, this is not that time that we take the 900,000 plus students in Harris County and say, ‘go back to school in person, because it’s ok, because it’s safe.’ It is not safe,” Shah said. “And that is the reason that Dr. Persse and I are signing this local health order today.”
Online instruction will be allowed prior to Sept. 8 which may allow school districts to begin classes on time, Hidalgo said. Health authorities along with other officials had reached out and spoken with most of the superintendents for school districts operating within Harris County prior to making the decision, she said.
Katy ISD had announced Thursday that it would be delaying classroom instruction to Sept. 8, though school is still expected to begin Aug. 19. The statement, signed by KISD Superintendent Ken Gregorski, said students and parents who wish to continue virtual education after Sept. 8 would need to ensure they complete a Katy Virtual Academy commitment form by Aug. 5.
“Even though all Katy ISD students will participate in online learning for the first few weeks, it’s important to inform us of your preferred instructional option. This will ensure your student has the same teacher on August 19 as when in-person instruction resumes on September 8, regardless of the instructional option elected,” Gregorski’s statement read.
Gregorski said he would provide updates and clarifications to the announcements and the district’s plans for reopening at the KISD Board of Trustees meeting this coming Monday. Updates are also available for parents on the district’s Smart Restart website.
Walle said he understood that there are many students, especially underprivileged students, in the county that would need help both with devices and internet service to participate in classes. However, he added that he would continue to push for the state to utilize CARES Act funds to help children obtain devices and some way to connect online during the start of instruction. The funds needed would be in addition to the millions already distributed.
“We hope that that’s a down payment because we have probably … close to $500 and $600 million,” Walle said. “Digital devices cost money and there’s probably close to $500-$600 million dollars in need.”
NOTE: This story may be updated as more information becomes available.