Harris County judge: Opening local schools will not be safe ‘anytime in the near future’

County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Aug. 12 a plan including best practices recommended for schools to open safely once the 2020-21 school year begins. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Aug. 12 a plan including best practices recommended for schools to open safely once the 2020-21 school year begins. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Aug. 12 a plan including best practices recommended for schools to open safely once the 2020-21 school year begins. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Image description
The county's recommendations are based on the COVID-19 threat level system.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said no in-person instruction should be taking place at local schools when the county’s COVID-19 threat level system is set at red, or “severe.” This is the highest level possible in the system, where it has been since June 26.

At an Aug. 12 press conference, Hidalgo also announced a plan including best practices recommended for schools to open safely once the 2020-21 school year begins.

“The countdown to the first day of school in person is like a ticking time bomb unless we do this right,” she said. “We made clear that it’s currently not safe, and it won’t be safe anytime in the near future, to open schools for in-person instruction.”

The plan recommends phasing in the opening of schools based on the county’s threat level system:

  • Red: Schools should not be open for in-person instruction or activities.

  • Orange: School districts can consider opening for in-person instruction and activities up to 25% capacity or 500 students—whichever is lower—in buildings or rooms.

  • Yellow: School districts can consider opening for in-person instruction and activities up to 50% capacity or 1,000 students—whichever is lower—in buildings or rooms.

  • Green: School districts can resume in-person instruction at their usual capacity.


Indicators in the level below red, orange or “significant,” include 201-400 new cases being reported per day countywide and 10%-15% of intensive care unit beds being used for COVID-19 patients.

Additionally, county officials are asking local school districts to submit safe reopening plans to Harris County Public Health for review. These plans should include procedures such as social distancing and health screening, according to officials.


Dr. Umair Shah, the executive director of Harris County Public Health, said the county’s road map to reopening schools was not only about campuses opening safely but making sure they are not forced to close again due to the spread of the virus.

This press conference comes the day after Harris County commissioners approved a $32.1 million initiative to distribute thousands of devices and internet hot spots to county students in need for virtual learning purposes.

Through a joint order issued July 24, Hidalgo mandated all public schools and nonreligious private schools remain closed for in-person instruction through at least Sept. 8, but Gov. Greg Abbott later said this decision can only be made by school boards.

“When it comes to dealing with this crisis, we shouldn’t be balancing politics with science—we should be balancing science with science,” Hidalgo said at the Aug. 12 press conference. “By committing to a common set of rules, we reduce the likelihood of the seesawing between open and close, which harms the students, which exhausts the community.”
By Danica Lloyd
Danica joined Community Impact Newspaper as a Cy-Fair reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a journalism degree from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She covers education, local government, business, demographic trends, real estate development and nonprofits.


MOST RECENT

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform demonstrations across the country. (Courtesy Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez/U.S. Air Force)
Jersey Village native named next commander of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds

Lt. Col. Justin Elliott, a Jersey Village native, will be the squadron’s commander and lead pilot next year.

Imperio Wine & Spirits sells a variety of liquor, beer, wine and spirits. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Imperio Wine & Spirits opens in Katy; Montgomery Chick-fil-A to open dining room and more Houston-area news

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

In addition to constructing a new 43-acre campus, Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 will be buying a fleet of 40 new ambulances and hiring 150 new staff. (Courtesy Cypress Creek EMS)
Executive director gives preview of ESD 11 Mobile Health Services

In addition to constructing a new 43-acre campus, Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 will be buying a fleet of 40 new ambulances and hiring 150 new staff.

See how some Greater Houston area school districts are planning to go back to school for the 2021-22 academic year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
See how some Greater Houston area school districts are planning to go back to school for the 2021-22 academic year

While some school districts in the Greater Houston area are doing away with face mask requirements and virtual schooling completely, others are pivoting to continue offering online learning options for students and plan to require face masks.

masks
CDC ends all mask requirements for fully vaccinated people

The guidance states fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors.

The inaugural cohort of Cy-Fair ISD's College Academy will also graduate from Cypress Lakes High School on May 29. (Courtesy Lone Star College-CyFair)
85 Cypress Lakes High School students to graduate with associate degrees

Since its launch, CFISD’s College Academy has expanded to all 12 high schools districtwide. Those who complete the program are able to enter the workforce with their two-year college degree or transfer to a four-year university as a junior.

Houston Scanning digitizes video tapes, printed photographs, film reels and more. (Courtesy Houston Scanning)
Houston Scanning relocates from Willowbrook to Louetta Road in Cypress

Houston Scanning digitizes video tapes, printed photographs, film reels and more.

The new clinic offers affordable services for local families. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Walk-In Wellness Family Clinic to bring low-cost medical services to Cypress

The clinic will offer pediatric care, preventative screenings, physical exams, diagnostic testing, dental services and more.

Single-family home sales were up 47.4% compared to last April with 9,105 units sold versus 6,175 a year earlier. (Courtesy Houston Association of Realtors)
HAR: Houston-area home sales in April up 47% compared to last year

Single-family home sales were up 47.4% compared to April 2020.

House Bill 1024, signed into law May 12, allows restaurants and bars to permanently sell alcoholic beverages to-go. (Courtesy Pexels)
Cocktails to-go are here to stay in Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott signs change into law May 12

Supporters say the change will help restaurants continue to recover from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jersey Village City Hall is located on Lakeview Drive, but city officials have plans to break ground on a new facility in Village Center in the coming months. (Danica Lloyd/Community Impact Newspaper)
Jersey Village postpones commitment to new City Hall construction contract

Council members agreed it would be best to wait to enter the agreement until other businesses have committed to building in Village Center.