Sunday, August 1, 2021

Houston ISD implements a rolling restart


Relief organizations, community and school groups, and just ordinary people from across America have responded to the needs of students and schools around Houston, helping more than 200,000 schoolchildren in Houston alone recover from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey a week ago.

Save the Children and actress Jennifer Garner work to support the Houston community (school via Twitter)

Schools themselves in the Houston Independent School District are implementing rolling start dates for the first day of school, based on the level of flooding damage at campuses, and students from the schools most devastated by Hurricane Harvey will be relocated to temporary campuses, the school district announced on its website.

Most schools will start on Monday, September 11, but some start as late as September 25, two weeks from Monday.

“During Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the surrounding school districts took six months to open their schools,” said HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza. “Hurricane Harvey was just as destructive, and we’re attempting to open a much larger school district in two weeks. Because of that, not everyone is going to start on September 11.”

The district advised that the start date for any given school could change from time to time and families should continue to monitor the situation and the database for last-minute changes.

Free breakfasts and lunches through September 30

The HISD announced that the US Department of Agriculture and the Texas Department of Agriculture have approved a plan that will allow the district to distribute free meals during the school day to students through the end of this month under the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program. The district also said it’s looking into covering the need for the remainder of the school year.

The district also recently got approval to serve free dinner to all students. HISD is still asking parents and guardians to complete and return the application. The National School Lunch and Breakfast Program applications and surveys are available from the district’s website.

Some students will have to change to a different school

After completing an assessment of 306 school and office buildings in an area spanning 312 square miles, HISD has found that some schools have substantial damages and will require students to attend classes at nearby vacant school buildings or underutilized campuses. Below is a list of affected campuses. Students will have their first day of classes September 25 at new locations to be determined:

  1. Braeburn Elementary
  2. Hilliard Elementary
  3. Kolter Elementary
  4. Liberty High
  5. Mitchell Elementary
  6. Robinson Elementary
  7. Scarborough Elementary

“We are working hard to ensure that all of our students’ needs are met and that teaching and learning gets underway as quickly as possible at all campuses,” Mr Carranza said. “Our priority has been and will continue to be the safety of our children and staff. I want to thank the community for their patience and cooperation during this difficult time. Rest assured, HISD is strong, and we will get through this together.”

Community meetings will be held for parents to ask questions about the temporary locations. Dates, times, and locations of those meetings will be shared with school communities as soon as possible. In addition, HISD Transportation will be working with campuses on establishing new bus routes for relocated students.

Mr Carranza said the district looked at three factors to address the safety of students and staff: that the facilities are safe, clean, and secured. “Some campuses were fortunate to have limited damage, while others need so much work, they will not reopen this year,” he said.

He said the district prioritized schools from least severe to most severe. The process included conducting a random sample test of air quality in schools where flooding occurred, a practice that will continue for the next year in order to detect any residual effects that could surface later.

America sends help where needed

Schools in Illinois are gearing up to continue helping victims of Hurricane Harvey, but with Irma headed to Florida today, some of those plans may have to be reconsidered.

On Friday, September 15, for example, District 200, which includes Wheaton Warrenville South and Wheaton North high schools, will sponsor a district-wide “Day of Giving.” Donations are being accepted in the main offices of all 20 school buildings in the district and at the Wheaton North and Wheaton Warrenville South football games.

“Currently, all proceeds will benefit the Houston Independent School District Foundation that serves more than 213,000 students and is the largest district in the State of Texas,” wrote Erica Loiacono, District 200’s public relations director. “However, as the weekend progresses and we learn more about any destruction caused by Hurricane Irma, we may extend some of the proceeds to Florida districts as well.”

The largest school district (local education agency) in the US is the New York City Department of Education, with about a million students. Los Angeles Unified School District serves about two-thirds of that, while the Puerto Rico Department of Education (already devastated by Irma) and Chicago Public Schools come in third and fourth, with a little over 400,000 kids each.

The fifth largest school district in the US is Miami-Dade County Public Schools in south Florida. The schools in this district, which serves slightly under 400,000 kids, are in the direct path of Hurricane Irma, one of the most dangerous Atlantic storms ever recorded. Broward County Public Schools, also in Florida, is seventh on the list after Clark County School District around Las Vegas, serving just over a quarter million students.

Then, Houston ISD comes in at No 8 and Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida at No 9, adding to the vast number of student lives being disrupted by hurricanes this month.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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