Clear Creek ISD news: District approves $2.1 million in pandemic spending; school start dates remain unchanged

Clear Creek ISD's board of trustees meets on the fourth Monday of each month. (Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)
Clear Creek ISD's board of trustees meets on the fourth Monday of each month. (Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)

Clear Creek ISD's board of trustees meets on the fourth Monday of each month. (Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)

Editor's note: This story was updated at 5:46 p.m. July 29 to include clarifying details from a July 29 Clear Creek ISD media release.

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.”
By Colleen Ferguson
A native central New Yorker, Colleen Ferguson worked as an editorial intern with the Cy-Fair and Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood editions of Community Impact before joining the Bay Area team in 2020. Colleen graduated from Syracuse University in 2019, where she worked for the campus's independent student newspaper The Daily Orange, with a degree in Newspaper and Online Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a degree in Spanish language and culture. Colleen previously interned with The Journal News/lohud, where she covered the commute in the greater New York City area.



Heading into Thanksgiving, Texas Medical Center continues to report uptick in hospitalizations

The total number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Texas Medical Center facilities has increased by more than 50% over two weeks.

Adelaide's sells items from local brands whenever possible, such as kits from The Heights-based My Drink Bomb. (Colleen Ferguson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Adelaide's Boutique stores strive to be ‘first-stop’ shops for gifts

The Adelaide’s Boutique locations—14870 Space Center Blvd., Houston, and 6011 W. Main St., League City—are meant to serve as customers’ destinations for clothes, shoes, accessories, gifts and other boutique items, many of which are locally sourced.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan for the state Nov. 23 for a vaccine he said could be available as soon as December. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announces COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan

The vaccine could start being distributed "as early as next month," according to a Nov. 23 news release.

"Remember, we don't want to invite COVID-19 to the dinner table," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a Nov. 23 press conference urging caution amid rising COVID-19 positivity rates. (Screenshot via ABC13)
Mayor Sylvester Turner urges caution heading into Thanksgiving holiday

Houston officials also said 333 health providers had been identified as future vaccine delivery sites.

With remote learning opportunities becoming increasingly prevalent, CCISD is reviewing its flexible learning options—such as Cyber Cafe and the Clear Connections program—and examining current TEA guidelines to determine if changes are needed to any of these programs and policies. (Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)
Clear Creek ISD updates: District adding new 2021-22 secondary courses, improving educational experiences

Five new secondary courses will be offered next school year; some courses will replace those previously offered, and some will be new courses altogether.

New guidance from the Texas Education Agency allows districts to require virtual learners who are failing classes or who have three or more unexcused absences to return to school in person. (Courtesy Canva)
Clear Creek ISD imposes grades-based restrictions on virtual learning

Although the Texas Education Agency allows schools to use attendance as a reason for mandating in-person learning with some students, CCISD officials chose to only focus on those who are academically struggling.

protestor in crowd with who police the police sign
New report: Houston police oversight board lagging behind major Texas cities

The report suggested having no oversight board has a better effect on public trust than having a dysfunctional board.

Laura Colangelo
Q&A: Laura Colangelo discusses challenges facing private schools during pandemic

Colangelo said private schools have adapted to remote learning and other obstacles in 2020 despite less revenue and a 9% decline in enrollment statewide.

Shake Shack opened its new standalone location at The Woodlands Mall in November. (Courtesy Christine Han)
Shake Shack opens in The Woodlands Mall and more Houston-area updates

Read the latest business and community news from the Greater Houston area.

While Harris County has a large oil and gas presence, it is trying to grow its solar energy presence as well. (Courtesy Adobe stock)
Harris County Precinct 2 works toward growth of solar energy presence

This includes the presence of jobs, education and infrastructure in the solar energy industry.

The Skeeters will be the first-ever independent baseball league team to become an MLB team's Triple-A affiliate. (Courtesy Sugar Land Skeeters)
Sugar Land Skeeters selected as Triple-A affiliate for Houston Astros

In joining the Houston Astros organization, the Sugar Land Skeeters will be the first-ever independent baseball league team to become an MLB team's Triple-A affiliate.