July 20, 2020
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Executive Director of Harris County Public Health Dr. Umair Shah today sent a letter to school district superintendents across the County outlining a series of recommendations schools should take to protect the health and safety of students, teachers, staff, and the community as a whole, including delayed opening for in-person instruction.
In the letter, Judge Hidalgo and Dr. Shah strongly urged schools to follow new Texas Education Agency provisions allowing an 8-week online instruction waiver, halting in-person instruction until at least October. The letter also requests school districts make accommodations for remote learning, cancel all extracurricular activities until in-person instruction resumes, and for written plans to be developed and shared with parents and community members regarding steps that will be taken to protect health and safety on campus.
“Today, our community remains in the midst of a severe and uncontrolled spread of COVID-19. The fastest way to reopen our schools over the long haul is to flatten and -- just as importantly -- substantially bring down our hospitalization curve.
“We commend local school districts who have made the hard decision to defer in-person instruction. We know that this has been a very challenging time for everyone in our community -- and particularly so for students, teachers and parents. In-person instruction is vital for the educational development and social wellbeing of children and young adults. In addition to their key roles in learning, schools promote the development of social and emotional skills and offer opportunities for physical activities. For low-income families, schools also provide much needed food assistance by offering students healthy meals and access to resources they may not otherwise have.
“We must come to grips with the fact that in order to learn and grow, students must be healthy and safe. That means not setting arbitrary dates for reopening schools that provide false hope, dates this virus does not recognize or respect. Instead, our focus should be on thresholds and on developing measured reopening plans.”