The Houston board of education approved a document Tuesday that will allow the school district to return to classrooms on Aug. 24.
The plan — which has been under development for several weeks by the board and administrators — guides teachers, parents and the community in reopening the county’s largest district. The campus has been closed since spring when Missouri underwent a mandated shutdown by Gov. Mike Parson. Some students attended a recent summer school.
For the seven-member board the task is huge: Insuring the safety of students and employees at a time that cases are still popping up in the county. Thirteen Texas Countians were in quarantine on Wednesday and two hospitalized. Last week one student tested positive after attending a campus function. There have been no other reports related to the school.
Superintendent Dr. Allen Moss said the plan was developed using the best guidance from healthcare professionals, parents, staff, state education leaders and other districts in the state and elsewhere. Moss told the seven-member board that the plan comes with flexibility that may need to be updated quickly depending on the situation. That may even include different plans of actions for various buildings, he explained.
Board members Jennifer Scheets and Leon Slape praised the efforts of administrators who continually worked on it amid a historic uncertain time for education in the country.
Moss said it is the intention to return the district’s 1,000 students to an environment that is as normal as possible with many safety precautions in place. Hand sanitizer will be readily available, children will be encouraged to keep their hands washed and students will likely see no more crowded hallways. Some instructors may wear a mask. Students may want to wear one, too. That’s fine. Extra precautions may involve some programs — such as band and choir. It is hoped older students will pitch in and help teachers clean desks between classes. An atmosphere of cooperation will be encouraged.
A quick dress rehearsal came with summer school. Students took the precautions in stride. The first positive case allowed the district to put its planning into place and used it as a learning experience to tinker with its plans.
The document, officially released Wednesday, may get its first update as early Tuesday when the board holds its normal monthly meeting.
There are many unknowns:
•How many students will use the district’s bus system? Will more parents bring their children to school? How will that affect traffic patterns around campus?
Two construction projects are slated in or near the school campus. A new high school gymnasium is under construction. Work will begin soon as part of a city project to install new sidewalks on King Street west of Houston Elementary School. The district will work with the city to determine the best method for students arriving and departing due to the projects.
•How many parents will want their children to attend virtually? Will that affect the state’s view of participation in extra-curricular activities?
Before the doors officially open, some normal school year launches — such as open houses — may require fine tuning. Those gatherings will likely now involve only those moving to a different learning environment — such as elementary students graduating to middle school. Appointments also can be arranged.
“It’s going to be a work in progress,” Moss told the board.