Despite recent orders from the city of Houston and Harris County mandating area schools remain closed for in-person instruction through at least Sept. 8, Clear Creek ISD plans for now to adhere to its current reopening schedule.
In a July 29 media release, Superintendent Greg Smith said the district immediately complied with the order as it relates to Harris County schools, but the school start date remains unchanged. Of the district’s 45 campuses, 25 are in Harris County, Smith said during a July 27 board of trustees meeting.Clear Lake and Clear Brook High School campuses are closed to extracurricular activities during the week of July 27.
Under the current plan, some students would be attending in-person classes starting Aug. 31. Smith said July 27 the district does not have “a unified entry plan” for the start of the year but that he has consulted with Galveston County health officials.
“This order was a surprise to many of us, and it’s not something that we are just going to accept readily,” he said. “We still have some questions about it, and we’ll keep pursuing those questions until we get the answers that we need.”
On Aug. 24, brick-and-mortar learners will start their year using the district’s School-to-Home model, switching to in-person instruction in phases from Aug. 31 to Sept. 8. Families can also send their children to school online through the district’s new Clear Connections platform; students using the platform must remain in this style of learning for at least a full grading period. Clear Connections students also begin Aug. 24.
More than 40% of students have made their decisions about mode of instruction for the 2020-21 school year, Smith said during the meeting, and about 10,600 have enrolled in in-person instruction. As of the evening of July 28, about 8,000 students have enrolled in Clear Connections, district officials said. If current trends remain the same with back-to-school decisions, the student population within the schools would be naturally reduced by 40%, per the July 29 media release.
As of July 28, the total number of active cases is approximately 2,035 within the 13 municipalities and two counties which encompass CCISD, per the release. COVID-19 positivity rates will play a key role in determining reopening plans, Smith said. The seven-day trend of testing positivity in the nine-county Greater Houston area was down to 15% as of July 25, as compared to a peak of 25% of July 19, according to the Texas Medical Center. Galveston County’s positivity rate has remained between 9% and 12% throughout the month of July, according to county health data.
Here are three other major updates to know from the July 27 meeting.
District approves funds for health services, transportation, maintenance staff
The board approved more than $2 million in additional spending to hire health services, maintenance, custodial and transportation staff for the 2020-21 school year. To date, the district has asked the board for funding to hire more than 50 additional full-time employees, district officials said.
Staff requested funding for a part-time health services secretary, campus clinic aides, bus drivers and custodians, according to information sheets presented at the meeting. All but $111,000 of the $2.1 million is being funded as one-time costs from the capital plan and will be placed in a new pandemic response fund.
Smith said the district will do whatever possible to continue supporting the positions needed to offset the public health crisis.
“We’ll continue to find any dollar that's underneath any rock,” he said.
Teachers will receive raises amid pandemic
As an effort to improve recruitment and retention for the district’s educators, $3.2 million in spending on salary increases was approved July 27.
Teachers with zero to four years of experience will receive a 1% salary increase, with additional increases after every five years of experience. Professional, paraprofessional auxiliary and administrative employees not on the 2020-21 teacher salary schedule will also receive a 1% salary increase.
Coming up: Public hearing on tax rate, joint election with Galveston County
The board passed a resolution to schedule a public hearing for August 24 at 6 p.m., at which time the proposed tax rate will be discussed. This proposed rate is $0.94 per $100 of assessed valuation for maintenance and operations, down from $0.97, district officials said.
CCISD will also hold its first joint election with Galveston County in November after postponing its board elections in May. The board approved the contract to confirm this July 27.
Trustee Scott Bowen said during the meeting this is a welcome step forward in terms of convenience to voters, since they can cast their votes for the trustees at the same time they vote in other races.
Board members voted at a March 23 meeting to delay elections from their initial May 2 date. Trustees Win Weber and Arturo Sanchez—who represent Districts 2 and 3, respectively—are both up for re-election.
DuPont said at the end of the July 27 meeting that the district and the community have a chance to define their own next steps, given the absence of normalcy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We will continue to have answers as we go along the way,” she said. “There is no more ‘business as usual.’ ... There is no more of what we knew as normal, I think; there is a new normal, and we need to define that together.”