— Humble BizCom held virtually —
The theme of the Humble Virtual BizCom could be “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” as 150 Lake Houston residents gathered in front of their laptops to view the Humble Virtual BizCom May 21.
“It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood,” began Humble BizCom Chair Connie Chandler, introducing Texas State Rep. Dan Huberty who announced that the MUD District 153 in Walden would be taking the lead role in applying for federal funds to continue dredging Lake Houston.
“This is my MUD District,” Huberty said, “and the goal is to eventually turn the duties over to Lake Houston’s Coastal Water Authority.”
Huberty explained that the water authority maintains the gates — including the new planned gates — on Lake Houston and has been supportive of the community’s dredging efforts but presently does not have the authority or funds to support dredging.
Huberty also described his efforts as a member of Operation Connectivity, Texas Gov. Greg Abbot’s task force with the Texas Education Agency and Dallas ISD, to provide Wi-Fi and laptops to students in need throughout Texas.
“The kids in my district who don’t have a device, they’re falling behind,” Huberty said.
Providing laptops and connectivity is a concern for Humble ISD Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Fagen, too, who described her BizCom talk as the “speed-dating version.”
“We surveyed our students and discovered 3,500 who didn’t have a device other than their phone,” Fagen said. “We also learned some students rely on fast-food restaurants and the library to get their Wi-Fi.”
In addition to getting laptops into the hands of students, Humble ISD has “turned up” the Wi-Fi on their campuses.
“Students or their parents can drive into any of our parking lots on any of our campuses and connect to our signal,” she said.
The district is keeping its June NRG Stadium date for graduation, Fagen said, but she suspects indoor graduations may still not be allowed by then, so a July 24 graduation date has been set for Turner Stadium.
“Indoor graduation would be tough,” she said. “Outside is better. We want our students to have that iconic moment. Hearing their name announced. Tossing their mortarboards in the air. But we want them to be safe, too. Pray for no rain.”
The district is making special graduation arrangements for seniors going into the military.
Whether students meet in school or online depends on final state regulations but students who need “catch-up” in their lessons will get extra help. Fagen said the district will offer help to students during the week in the first term that students are scheduled to be off.
The district’s massive construction projects are on time and under budget since bids have been particularly low, she said, and, despite not knowing the full impact on revenue, they are preparing a careful budget.
Budget was on the mind of Humble City Manager Jason Stuebe, who said the city may lose a million dollars in tax revenue in the three months of the coronavirus.
“We’re nervous, of course, but we’re in a good position and tightening up our budget like everyone else,” he said.
Stuebe said Deerbrook Mall, which plays a significant role in the city, is open with 80% of stores operating. He described efforts to bring quality of life back to the city and Lake Houston by hosting for free the Divisi Strings with a DJ at an Uptown Park performance in Downtown Humble June 27. The Fab 5, a Beatles Tribute Band, may perform later at Uptown Park.
“Our goal is to see how these live performances work out,” Stuebe said. “I’m cautiously optimistic. We’re coming out of this and we’re going to be stronger.”
At Lone Star College-Kingwood, summer enrollment is up while overall, the Lone Star system is about what it was last year, according to Dr. Katherine Persson, Kingwood campus president.
“As for fall’s enrollment numbers, I’m not sure what to expect. They look wacky,” confessed Persson.
The seven campuses received $28 million in federal stimulus funds, half required to go to students, she said. So far, $8.5 million has been used to assist summer-school students and purchase laptops for them.
Face-to-face classes begin in October, about 20% of the total number. Persson explained that those classes represent health, oil and gas, firefighter and process technology jobs that require clinicals on on-site education.
“Our faculty and staff are very innovative,” Persson said. “Most classes have 30 students but the requirement is that space is 10 students, 6 feet apart. Since only 20% of our classes will be face-to-face, we’ve discussed a class with 10 students in three classrooms and the professor on webcam.”
Persson expects budget cuts but no layoffs and she’s particularly excited about “ … the really cool, virtual artistic performances that we’re planning. We recently had a virtual open house that was well attended.”
As it began, the virtual BizCom ended on an optimistic tone as a charming little boy from a Facebook posting sang the popular ditty, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.”
View the complete Virtual Humble BizCom on the Lake Houston Chamber’s YouTube channel. Check the Lake Houston Chamber’s website for information on future virtual meetings, including the chamber lunch-In. A virtual Atascocita BizCom is set for Thursday, June 11 at 11 a.m. Register at lakehouston.org.