Houston ISD is seeing enrollment numbers lagging behind this point in the last school year by as much as 16%, according to a report to the board of trustees Sept. 10.

Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said 167,163 students had officially enrolled as of Sept. 10, compared to 199,312 on the third day of class in fall 2019.

Officials expect that number to tick upward in coming days as more students re-enroll.

"We're going to do everything we can to locate our students," Lathan said. "We will see those numbers pick up. We will."

That enrollment includes a total of 681 students who attended one of the district's digital learning centers out of potentially 18,000 students who are eligible to attend because they lack access to technology.

Many parents in that group contacted by the district said they did not want to send their children to the in-person centers, which are required to be offered by the Texas Education Agency, Lathan said.

"40% requested a paper packet, but that's not an option from TEA," she said.

The district continues to work to reduce the number of "hard to reach" students—those it has not heard from since the outbreak began. It has contacted 6,272 out of those estimated 8,400 students, according to information shared with trustees.

The trustees approved two measures Sept. 10 to give the district more flexibility in coming weeks, including offering virtual learning on Election Day and allowing an extension of virtual learning through Oct. 30, if needed based on health guidelines.

The district still fully intends to reopen for in-person learning on Oct. 19, if conditions allow.

Chief Technology Information Officer Scott Gilhousen also continues to lead a massive effort to equip every student with technology to enable digital learning, Lathan said.

Some 70,000 devices have been ordered; 10,000 have been received and another 60,000 is being delivered in batches, Gilhousen said. This is in addition to 25,000 devices deployed in August.

"As Mr. Gilhousen reminds me every day—10 times a day, when I ask him 10 times a day, 'Where are we on devices?'— the numbers will continue to change," Lathan said. "We're getting there. ... We're going to keep trying until we get a device in the hands of every child that needs them."