It is critical to get kids back to school, State Rep. Dan Huberty told almost a hundred viewers watching the Lake Houston Chamber’s State of the State Lunch-In on their computers July 21.
“As the parent of a 16-year-old, he must go back to school for MY mental health,” Huberty said.
State officials – the governor and lieutenant governor, the speaker of the house, the senate education chair and Huberty as house education chair – have communicated with an array of groups including school boards, school district officials, teachers, “… as many people as possible about reopening the schools,” he said.
“Schools in Texas are called ‘independent’ school districts for a reason,” he said. “Local control is important and, working with health representatives and state officials, we believe the districts and their boards know what is best for their schools.”
Emergency management, workforce speakers give updates at chamber luncheon
Huberty assured viewers that school funding, which is based on attendance, will include both virtual and in-person students. He also assured viewers that the state is providing schools with personal protection equipment at no charge and that sick leave will not be counted against teachers and school staff who must be quarantined for themselves or a family member.
“Our purpose is to draft goals that give flexibility to schools. One size does not fit all. What Huffman or Humble require may be different from what Katy requires,” Huberty said.
On another topic, Huberty praised Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin for his effort in purchasing the Montgomery County land north of Elm Grove Village in Kingwood and for the dredging of more than 200,000 cubic yards of sand and silt from the San Jacinto River mouth-bar.
Huberty said MUD 153 in Atascocita is leading efforts to seek funding to continue dredging the inlets along Lake Houston, praising State Sen. Brandon Creighton and Texas Congressman Dan Crenshaw as well.
“We now have a viable solution to flooding,” Huberty said.
“We’ve got constituents who don’t like to be told what to do,” Huberty said in the question and answer session. “I understand. People are tired of staying home but we must focus on getting kids back to school. Support our local businesses. Follow the Centers for Disease Control guidelines.”
Also speaking virtually at the chamber lunch-in was Jay Hall, assistant for the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
Under the CARES Act, Texas has been allotted $11 billion for medical, public health, payroll and other expenses in support of the COVID-19 response. Hall ticked off the millions of personal protective equipment items his agency has distributed to medical personnel, first responders, police and fire officials, and school districts. The items include protective clothing, helmets, gloves, face shields, goggles and face masks.
When asked about hurricane preparedness in the age of COVID-19, Hall said it is important to have a “to-go kit,” including cash and clothes in case of evacuation. Hall said the pandemic has required his division to rethink what they do.
“In the past, a disturbance forming from Africa would give us time to formulate our plan,” he said. “Now, because of social distancing, for example, we could shelter fewer people so we may need to find more sites. Planning is going to take more time.”
Commissioner Aaron Demerson with the Texas Workforce Commission recalled jogging past a school recently and realizing that the quiet signified no students.
“We did as much work in the last four months than we would normally do in four years – four million claims, $20 billion paid out, 3.4 million calls,” he said. “In response, the workforce commission doubled the number of call centers, now open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. seven days a week. We hired more staff and initiated a chat box to handle questions and concerns.”
The commission invested $10 million in training programs and currently there are 600,000 available jobs listed on their website.
“We have 2.6 million small businesses in Texas, and we’ve held virtual meetings listening to them and helping them work out their problems,” Demerson said. “It was refreshing to see that businesses care about their employees. Texas is ready to get back to work safely.”
The July 21 lunch-in can be viewed on the Lake Houston Chamber’s YouTube channel. Martin and Dr. Katherine Persson, president of Lone Star College-Kingwood, will speak at the virtual Kingwood BizCom set for Thursday, Aug. 6 at 11 a.m. The virtual Summer Creek BizCom will be held Thursday, Sept. 10 at 11 a.m., the virtual Humble BizCom is Thursday, Oct. 8 at 11 a.m., and the virtual Atascocita BizCom is Thursday, Nov. 5 at 11 a.m. Register for all virtual programs at lakehouston.org.