Clear Creek ISD delays full return to in-person instruction; group to protest at Aug. 10 board workshop

A majority of Clear Creek ISD students will return to school in-person classes this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Graphic by Justin Howell/Community Impact Newspaper)
A majority of Clear Creek ISD students will return to school in-person classes this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Graphic by Justin Howell/Community Impact Newspaper)

A majority of Clear Creek ISD students will return to school in-person classes this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Graphic by Justin Howell/Community Impact Newspaper)

Image description
(Courtesy of Clear Creek ISD)
Image description
(Courtesy of Clear Creek ISD)

2:58 p.m. Aug. 11

This story was updated to include visual breakdowns of the back-to-school plan, which were provided by Clear Creek ISD.

Original post

Clear Creek ISD will extend the final phase of its back-to-school transition plan,
bringing the rest of the district’s in-person students back to campus beginning Sept. 14 instead of Sept. 8 to adhere to county health guidelines, Superintendent Greg Smith said in an Aug. 10 news release.

“The longer our doors remain closed, the more distant children become from [in-person educational] experiences,” Smith said in the release. “This realization weighs heavy on my heart and my decision-making.”

The district’s first official day of school is Aug. 24. In-person learners will start using the district’s School-to-Home model, switching to on-campus instruction in phases starting Aug. 31. Approximately 9,200 students who selected in-person learning in pre-K, kindergarten, sixth grade, ninth grade and some special education students in self-contained classes will be the first to return to on-campus instruction, per the release.

More than 60% of CCISD parents have selected in-person instruction for their children this fall, per the release. A group of those parents and other concerned Bay Area residents will gather outside the Education Support Center at the same time as the board of trustees’ Aug. 10 workshop to peacefully speak out against the delays to resuming in-person instruction.

The protest, sponsored by Red Apple – Clear Creek ISD Parents for In-Person Education, will take place outside the building, located at 2425 E. Main St., League City, starting at 4:30 p.m. The workshop agenda does not include an item related to the school start date but does include a district update, which is typically delivered by Smith.

The Red Apple - Clear Creek group does not seek to eliminate or degrade alternative online learning options but rather advocates for children to have the choice to attend school in person, according to the group’s Aug. 10 media release. Families not yet comfortable with in-person education can send their children to school online through CCISD’s new Clear Connections platform; Clear Connections students will begin Aug. 24.

The district is currently in a phase where its 330 new teachers have reported to their respective campuses, and band students and strength and conditioning students are continuing local training, per the district’s Aug. 10 release. During the weeks of Aug. 17 and Aug. 24, 5,000 more district employees will return to prepare for students through various online learning-focused professional development activities, as well as to familiarizing themselves with the standard operating procedures for safely reopening, per the release.

The extension of the final transition phase means the remaining students who selected in-person classes—those not part of the 9,200 who return Aug. 31—will be using the School-to-Home model for a longer period of time than previously announced. The deadline to enroll in Clear Connections was Aug. 10 at 3 p.m., and any students not enrolled by that time were placed in in-person learning by default.

“We believe that parents who made the choice to send their children back into the classroom did not do so lightly, and that they do not deserve to have that choice taken away from them,” said Christine Parizo, an education advocate involved with the Red Apple – Clear Creek group, in the group’s media release. “Based on the data ... from countries like Uruguay that did not close schools, there is no reason not to reopen the schools for in-person learning as early as Aug. 24.”

The group’s release cites the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stating both organizations have said the risk to children “from continued isolation, resulting in depression, addiction, and suicide, is far greater than any threat posed by COVID-19.” The release also cited “numerous studies” from European countries that have proven the risk of transmission by children to adults is minimal and German studies that show children may actually serve as a buffer to transmission of COVID-19.

Smith said in the CCISD news release that while he is confident and comfortable with the district’s safety protocols, he, too, is concerned about the increasing sense of isolation, depression and anxiety among students because of the delay for in-person start dates.

“Is it more dangerous to keep our school doors closed? I would argue, yes,” he said in the release. “I know moving the goal post down the field is a hardship for working families and a disappointment to our kids who really want to get back into their schools. I get it. I want to resume normal operations as soon as possible.”

District leaders across the state, Smith said, have grappled with numerous challenges as they devise reopening plans, namely the lack of a single metric or goal that defines a safe return. The COVID-19 infection rate in Galveston County, based on Aug. 8 health department data, is about 2.7%: Nearly 9,400 cases have been reported out of the county’s more than 342,000 residents.

Smith said the rate of positive results in COVID-19 tests needs to continue downward with a goal of 5%, although this is just one of several variables at play. Some CCISD campuses are in Harris County; both Harris and Galveston counties have current positivity rates of 8% to

The superintendent has worked closely with health authorities, physicians, school board members, other area superintendents and the Texas Education Agency, he said—but no one has claimed to be an expert on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I, like many of my colleagues across the region believe the best environment for a child to receive quality instruction is within the classroom, face-to-face albeit six feet apart from the teacher,” Smith said in the release. “We know our schools are the hubs of the community. We are ready to start brick and mortar school. But as we know, the pandemic continues to affect our community.”

By Colleen Ferguson

Reporter, Bay Area

A native central New Yorker, Colleen worked as an editorial intern with the Cy-Fair and Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood editions of Community Impact Newspaper before joining the Bay Area team in 2020. She covers public education, higher education, business and development news in southeast Houston. Colleen graduated in 2019 from Syracuse University and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, where she worked for the university's independent student newspaper The Daily Orange. Her degrees are in journalism and Spanish language and culture. When not chasing a story, Colleen can be found petting cats and dogs, listening to podcasts, swimming or watching true crime documentaries.