By Charlotte Aguilar
Houston ISD reports that all 280 of its campuses are open for in-person classes today and that it is changing its controversial procedure to close schools when the COVID-19 virus is detected.
On Tuesday, the second day of the return to campus learning, the district was forced to close anywhere from 15 to 19 schools — uncertain because of an uneven reporting system that saw different figures being supplied to various media.
At that time, HISD was using a standard of one presumed or confirmed case to trigger a closing — but Wednesday night, the district said it would now close a campus only for two or more confirmed positive cases of the virus.
The district had come under fire for closing campuses because of a single presumed or confirmed case.
Both Bellaire and Westbury High Schools were closed Tuesday, as well as Lanier Middle School and Roberts Elementary — each reportedly with one presumed or confirmed case.[Inexplicably, Pershing Middle School was also included on the “closing” list, although parents told Essentials News that it had remained open. HISD confirmed to Essentials Wednesday that there was a presumed positive case at Pershing and that the school was deep cleaned in order to reopen Thursday. No explanation was given for the error.]
The district got a break, of sorts, with Wednesday being scheduled as a professional development day for teachers — students were already scheduled off, so the closings weren’t as disruptive as they might have been.
Under HISD’s reopening plan, families opt for either on-campus or distance learning, and the percentage of students attending face-to-face classes varies from school to school.
Here is HISD’s statement, issued Wednesday night:
All Houston Independent School District schools will reopen and resume face-to-face instruction on Thursday, Oct. 22. Campuses that were temporarily closed on Tuesday, Oct. 20 due to confirmed positive or presumed positive COVID-19 cases have been deep cleaned and disinfected.
Additionally, after reviewing existing campus COVID-19 closure procedures in collaboration with the Houston Health Department, the district will no longer close campuses with one reported confirmed positive or presumptive COVID-19 case. Any infected or exposed students or staff will be notified, isolated and, if possible sent home, and the campus will undergo deep cleaning and disinfection overnight. Learning will continue as normal with students and staff remaining in their assigned classrooms throughout the day to limit movement and contacts.
If two or more confirmed positive cases are reported on a campus, the campus will close and shift to virtual learning to adequately identify contacts of positive cases. All students on the campus will shift to virtual learning until the campus is cleared to re-open. Parents will be notified by their campus of any changes to the instructional day, and when in-person instruction has been cleared to resume.