Students return to school despite concern in COVID cases

Districts are allowed to discontinue at-home learning for students who are failing.

HOUSTON, Texas — It’s back to school this week for districts across the Houston area after a lengthy holiday break.

“The boys are ready to be back in school and getting back into a routine,” said Houston ISD parent Sarah Beth Seifert.

Her two sons include a first-grader at Poe Elementary.

She said her expectations for the new semester aren’t much different from the fall.

“I’m expecting about the same,” same Seifert. “The schools were really careful and I just felt super safe sending the kids.”

HISD shared a social media video over the break of its ongoing COVID cleaning protocols and surging community-wide COVID cases are likely to keep all safety procedures in place no matter the district.

Meanwhile, rapid COVID testing is increasingly available to students and staff.

“This pandemic is as bad as it ever has been in Texas and it’s going to take a while for the vaccines to have an effect,” said Texas State Teachers Association spokesman Clay Robison.

He said many educators remain concerned about a possible spike in cases similar to the one following Thanksgiving.

“They don’t know where their students have been, they don’t know who their students may have been exposed to,” said Robison. “The bus drivers will be transporting these kids to school and they don’t know where these kids have been.”

Many expect more and more students who’ve been learning from home to return to physical campuses during this semester. And the Texas Education Agency is allowing districts to discontinue remote learning for those who are failing unless they have a valid doctor’s excuse.

“We continue to remain vigilant in adhering to our safety protocols, and we believe that on-campus instruction is, and remains, the best method for a students’ learning and social-emotional growth,” said a letter Klein ISD schools sent to families.

Health experts have stated that campuses may be some of the safest places to be.

It’s what students and staff do away from school that’s the problem.

“We’re staying at home, eating at home and really just trying to be conscious of what we’re doing,” said Seifert.

She said she hopes everyone will take necessary precautions to keep both learning options available.

“You know, hopefully, during the spring and summer we can get to a place to make next school year more normal,” said Seifert.

Here’s Klein ISD’s full letter regarding at-home learners:

This school year has been a unique experience for our community, our students, and all of the Klein ISD family. Thank you for the continued patience, grace, and support you have shared with our employees. We continue to focus on providing the highest quality learning experiences for our students, even in the middle of the ongoing COVID-19 challenges. While our teachers and staff are working hard to deliver quality virtual learning through Klein Online, it is apparent that some students in the Klein Online learning option are not succeeding academically.

On November 5, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released new guidance regarding virtual learning and how to support students who are unsuccessful in an online environment. This new guidance allows Klein ISD, with the best interests of our students, teachers, and school community in mind, to discontinue Klein Online for students who are failing academically. Campus administration will be in contact with families who have Klein Online students who are not academically succeeding. Klein Online will continue to be available to those students who are demonstrating mastery of content and are progressing successfully throughout their courses.

Students with health concerns or students who have family members in their home with health concerns will be provided the opportunity to continue to learn online by submitting a Medical Certification for COVID-19 High-Risk Exemption signed by a medical doctor. This attestation certification applies only to Klein Online students who are not succeeding academically in their classes as described above. Upon submission, a campus administrator will be in contact with the family for review and next steps. Please submit your completed and signed Medical Certification Form to [email protected] before the return date provided by your student’s campus.

For Klein Online students who do not qualify for the medical attestation, we will continue to work with families for a successful transition to Klein On-Campus.

As always, online learning for students who test positive for COVID-19, or have to quarantine because of the virus, will work with campus administration to continue learning temporarily in Klein Online with the goal of returning to on-campus instruction as soon as possible.

We continue to remain vigilant in adhering to our safety protocols, and we believe that on-campus instruction is, and remains, the best method for a students’ learning and social-emotional growth.

If your Klein Online student is currently unable to demonstrate academic success, your campus administrators will be in contact with you to outline the next steps for your family. Klein ISD looks forward to having our Klein Online learners back on campus to work together for student success.

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