CYPRESS — With the start of Cypress-Fairbanks ISD schools on Sept. 8 looming overhead, the political reality seems to be that there will be little changed since reopening plans were first announced.
However, those changes could be the code that allow public schools to work.
Politics slam CFISD from left and right
What remains to be seen is how the district will make the decision to shutter individual schools, or possibly the entire district, should an outbreak occur.
“As the coronavirus rages in Texas, so do unconscionable decisions requiring Cy-Fair teachers to come to school buildings for professional development,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, on the Supreme Court of Texas’ decision to overrule a lower court’s temporary restraining order on forcing teachers to come to Cy-Fair schools for professional development. “It just makes no sense to put teachers at risk, when this training can easily be done virtually. We need to side with science, health and safety, not magical thinking that this virus won’t spread, and not put students, teachers, other school employees and their families in harm’s way.”
Tomorrow, Aug. 24, marks the short side of the 10- to 14-day COVID-19 Coronavirus’ asymptomatic period, since professional development started at CFISD on Aug. 14. Additionally, that same time frame includes anyone who may have been infected by a staff member that tested positive on Aug. 13. (Click to read the article.)
Friday afternoon, CFISD emailed community members that the district updated the “LEAD Safely” plan. Essentially, the update states that every student and staff member must wear a face mask with limited exceptions. Anyone wishing to not wear a face covering needs to have a specific Section 504 accommodation or an accommodation via the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Download the message in PDF form here.)
The message updated statistics on the numbers of parents wishing for their children to either be in the classroom or learning online. With only six percent of parents not having responded yet, the update shows only 41% (46,013 students) choosing in-person instruction. The majority of parents, 53% (60,264 students), have chosen for virtual instruction. (Download a school-by-school breakdown of the survey, from CFISD.) The district is calling its online education “CFISD Connect.”
“I never thought that computers were going to overtake the public education profession, because so much of our work is based in human interaction,” said Zeph Capo, the president of the Texas AFT. “It is based in all of those behavioral, cultural things that are part of and as important as the academics. So (teachers) understand how important these things are. But I have more faith in our teachers to be able to catch up on anything our kids are missing than I do in some of our leaders to control the virus right now. That’s the difference: We can make up for whatever they’re missing. I can’t take it back if a kid is hurt or a teacher dies (by COVID-19).”
Conversely, politicians at state and federal levels are pushing for schools to reopen with in-person instruction.
On Aug. 12, the White House laid out it’s case for reopening public schools.
Local schools districts have the discretion over when and how to begin the school year, not county judges.
Lina Hidalgo doesn’t have any authority whatsoever over the ability of schools, public or private, to be able to open. pic.twitter.com/1YVqau4fOK
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) August 20, 2020
What’s better than a homemade mask?
Whether in the schoolhouse, or at the grocery store, Texas currently requires that you wear some sort of face covering. But what if you want something better than a piece of cloth designed to only keep you from unknowingly infecting others?
We found an article from Fast Company explaining the differences of the respirators that filter inbound-air. One of the big reasons a run on N95 respirators occurred earlier this year was that they provide filtration to help keep nurses and doctors from becoming infected by COVID-19.
While not originally focused on filtering for COVID-19, the Cy-Fair Fire Department (formerly the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department) originally purchased N99-rated respirators from RZ Industries for suppression crews a few years ago to use on grass fires and during cleanup efforts after structure fires. According to multiple articles and research available from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), N99 respirators are even better at filtering particulate from the air when compared to the N95-certified respirators. The Cypress News Review reached out to RZ Industries, which stated their respirators are N99 compliant.
“Early this year the department purchased them for EMS crews as well,” said Capt. Daniel Arizpe, a CFFD public information officer. “The department now issues them to all members.”
However, upon entry to a CFISD building, if you choose to wear a respirator that has exhalation valves / vents, then the district requires a full-face shield be worn also. Looking at the respirators worn by the CFFD crews, that style of mask would require caps to avoid needing the full-face shield. Otherwise, the wearer would need to wear a full-face shield.
Tracking COVID-19 at your child’s school
According to a joint statement from the Texas Education Agency and Texas Department of State Health Services, “information will be submitted to DSHS any time there is a positive case in a campus.”
According to the Texas Tribune, the state will start releasing information on COVID-19 cases in public schools among students and staff members, soon.
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