Humble ISD Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Fagen is “impressed” by the efforts of teachers, staff and community during the ever-changing situation with coronavirus disease (COVID-19). “Our staff, our community … they have been incredible with these announcements,” Fagen said. “Everybody is being supportive and contributing in every way that they can for the greater good. There is so much positive stuff all over Twitter from our staff. That piece of it is really impressive.”
According to Fagen, community partners have also stepped up to the plate to help fill the needs of students during this time.
“Comcast has offered two months free of internet basic to low-income families so that they can be connected,” Fagen said. “I’ve seen authors who have given permission for their books to be read online. I’ve seen a lot of different software platforms offer the software free for the remainder of the year. Everybody is stepping up in the way that they can towards this collaborative effort. It’s really making a positive out of a challenging situation.”
COVID-19 hitting close to home has prompted precautions to be put into place to prevent the spreading of this virus across the Houston Metropolitan area, including Humble ISD and Huffman ISD. The virus has taken the world by storm, quickly spreading across multiple continents and countries over the past month. As of March 16, the virus has been confirmed in 140 countries around the globe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In the United States, 4,226 cases had been confirmed as of March 17. The Harris County website reports that 110 confirmed cases have been reported within the state of Texas and 11 of those specifically within Harris County.
Humble ISD, with a total enrollment of 45,381 students, released on Monday that schools within the district “will be closed, with all events and activities canceled, through Friday, April 10. This is part of the ongoing effort to support our nation’s need to ‘flatten the curve’ of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Houston area continues to see an increasing number of confirmed cases of COVID-19. Health officials report that this number is expected to continue to increase as more testing is made available.”
According to Fagen, “The health and safety of the community has to be our top priority right now,” and is one of the reasons behind the decision to suspend attending school on campuses. “Along with that,” Fagen continued, “we want to provide distance-learning opportunities to the students. We want to make sure that the children have food. And we want to partner in supporting our health-care system so that we can ‘flatten the curve’ as they say. We’re really committed to focusing on those items and doing our part as a school district.”
Fagen encourages parents to stay connected directly with teachers “for specific information about their child and their learning. For information about food being offered and things like that, I would encourage them to go to the district website. For information about having your children at home or anything like that, I really encourage our parents to get on Twitter and follow their teacher, follow the district, follow the school leaders. There’s a lot of information being shared there.”
According to a statement released by Humble ISD Chief Communications Officer Jamie Mount, the district has designated locations for meals to be served to children within the community from ages 1-18. The current schedule lists meals available for breakfast and lunch through March 20. According to the Humble ISD website, humbleisd.net, “There will be no charge for the meals. Families can drive through the car-rider line or walk up to obtain a carry-out meal [starting this] Wednesday through Friday. Breakfast will be available from 8-10 a.m. and lunch will be available from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Meals may be picked up at Elm Grove Elementary School, Oaks Elementary School, Ridge Creek Elementary School, River Pines Elementary School, Humble Middle School or Ross Sterling Middle School.
“Children should be present on site to receive the meal. No child will be turned away. Meals are available to children beginning at age 1. Reservations are not required but are greatly appreciated to help us have correct quantity at each location on the first day that we provide meals.”
The statement also said, “Families will receive an email from their school later this week about learning opportunities while campuses are closed. During Spring Break, Humble ISD stated schools would email parents information tonight. However, principals and teachers are now readjusting plans to best serve students over a longer period of time. Please watch your email for information from your child’s school.”
Though campuses are closed for learning, some facilities on the grounds will remain open to the public at the moment.
“Please note,” the statement continues, “Throughout Humble ISD, high school campuses are closed; this includes all outside facilities. Middle school tracks remain open to the public at this time. Elementary school playgrounds remain open to the public at this time, and playground equipment will be cleaned daily. Despite daily cleaning, families should be aware that the coronavirus can live on hard surfaces for days. Health officials recommend frequent hand washing and social distancing.”
As far as the public school board meeting that is usually held the first Tuesday of the month, Mount said, “It is the goal to hold the next school board meeting Tuesday, March 24. The district is working on plans that would allow the meeting to occur while maintaining social distancing. The meeting notice will be posted on humbleisd.net.”
According to Fagen, communication between school districts across the state and local regions is happening on a regular basis to help come up with the best plans for moving forward. “Superintendents across the state are on calls with the TEA [Texas Educators Association] nearly daily,” Fagen explained. “And superintendents across Region 4, which is the Houston area, are also on calls almost daily. So there is constant collaboration, sharing of ideas. We are sharing the best of our ideas with one another.”
Huffman ISD also released that the district will be closing operations until April 10. According to the statement, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has outlined the need for all communities to implement a social distancing protocol. The president has publicly shared that the community should not gather in groups larger than 10 people. The district will remain flexible as leaders plan for long-term delivery of instruction and continue to navigate the many details of this unprecedented situation.
“Please continue to monitor your email and visit the district website and social media channels for more information on plans to deliver instruction and information on our feeding program. The health of Huffman ISD students, staff and community is the district’s top priority, and district leaders are working to ensure the community has the most current information available.”
Huffman ISD teachers are expected to reach out to parents about distance-education opportunities during the closures, and according to the statement, “Huffman ISD will also be offering grab-and-go lunches at the Huffman Elementary School Cafeteria starting Monday March 23 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.”