By Charlotte Aguilar
Houston ISD will close all 280 of its schools and offices beginning Friday (March 13) through March 30 “out of an abundance of caution” after possible coronavirus exposure at two of its campuses located on Houston Community College facilities, according to a statement Thursday evening.
Spring break was already scheduled to shut down HISD classes and offices next week, but a decision was made to extend the closings, with school now set to resume Tuesday, March 31. All spring break camps and University Interscholastic League events have also been called off.
HISD said it will continue to monitor the coronavirus situation and issue any updates at houstonisd.org/HealthAlerts. There was no word on plans to offer distance learning, which could be an option at the high school level, where all students are issued laptops each school year.
With 210,000 students, HISD is Texas’ largest district and the seventh largest school system in the U.S.
Other closings announced late today include the three campuses of the Post Oak School, which has a Bellaire school serving infants through sixth grade and a middle school and a high school in the Museum District.
The school was set to observe spring break next week, and could resume classes on campuses March 30 — with distance learning starting on March 25. But Post Oak’s notification left open the possibility of a longer absence from classrooms.
“While the duration and timing of our school closure are intentional, it is entirely possible that this will be extended based on what the spread of COVID-19 looks like over the next couple of weeks,” read a letter to families Thursday night.
The school emphasized it had no reported cases of the virus or of direct exposure in its communities.
St. John’s School, which educates students from kindergarten through 12th grade, has canceled Friday classes and asked students to bring home their textbooks and other learning materials to begin a remote learning program following spring break, according to a statement Thursday.
“The plan for the week of March 23-27 is to engage students in our remote learning program,” read the notification from headmaster Mark Desjardins and board chair John Moody. “On Monday, March 23, and Tuesday, March 24, teachers will assign independent work for their students; then starting on Wednesday, March 25, teachers will begin a modified schedule to include online instruction for students.”
Both schools explained their decisions to close were not easy ones to make.
“I am at a loss to recall a situation in my 34-year career that has created this amount of uncertainty and presented such a variety of complex challenges,” wrote Desjardins. “As one of my colleagues recently noted, ‘We are building the ship as it sails.’”
Post Oak’s Head of School Maura Joyce wrote, “At many points along this journey, we were faced with making choices in which there was no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ decision. We feel this is the best decision with the information we have now.”