CYPRESS — The Cypress-Fairbanks ISD board of trustees heard teachers with health conditions tell of conversations with the CFISD human resources department giving them the options of taking leave or resigning, during a school board work session meeting last night, Aug. 6, 2020.

During a work session, the board can not take actions or vote on agenda items. The next school board meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, at 6 p.m., in the CFISD Instructional Support Center, at 10300 Jones Rd, Houston, TX 77065.

Teachers ask for safer work environment

Members of the Cy-Fair Texas State Teachers Association and the Cy-Fair American Federation of Teachers, along with extended family members, took to the two lecterns at the CFISD Instructional Support Center.

“Imagine having 20 people — not related to you — coming into your home, all at the same time,” said Donna Lord, the Cy-Fair TSTA president. “After 55 minutes, they leave and you have five minutes to disinfect all of your surface areas, before 20-25 more arrive. This continues six to seven times a day, Monday through Friday. And while these people are in your home, you must not only engage with them in a meaningful way, but you must engage with people online at the same time. And don’t forget, monitor those masks, to protect them and yourself. I ask you, what type of expectations would you want in place to protect yourself? What support would you want in place to ensure your safety and everyone’s safety? Are these the same expectations you want for your classroom teachers?”

The local TSTA president added that while the district leadership recently allowed three teachers on the reopening committee, there are 7,000 teachers in the district.

“Please, if you don’t want to collaborate with us, at least put yourself in our place while you’re making these decisions,” Lord said. “Teachers deserve that respect — Don’t make us beg.”

The push for both having professional development sessions (“teacher-only days”) and starting the school year only-online seems to have become a focus, following the announcement by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that cities and counties could not preemptively shutdown schools in the pandemic.

“I’m advocating for these teachers, because their lives depend on it,” said Mackenna Coffey, a CFISD teacher. “I’m asking the board to work with us on options, we deserve that, and our students deserve to have us alive.”

Despite the parents’ survey of intent for their students to learn online or in-person, staff members are upset about the district not surveying staff and teachers. Unlike neighboring school districts like Katy ISD, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD has resisted surveying its teaching staff so far.

“Why do I not get a say in if I feel comfortable about putting myself and my family at risk?” Jennifer Freestone asked the board. Freestone added that she’s taught for over 15 years. “I love teaching, but I also love my life and my family’s lives. I shouldn’t have to choose between my livelihood and death.”

While board members’ actions are restricted to the meeting agenda’s action items, trustees now have a better understanding of a potential issue within Cy-Fair ISD.

“Teachers came up here in force today,” said Gilbert Sarabia, trustee. “We do hear you and hear your passion.”

Multiple citizens pleaded their cases to the board, asking for online-only classes to start the school year instead of putting thousands of students back into the buildings, in fear of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic spreading like wildfire throughout our community. Data and stories from other states that have already reopened with students in the schoolhouse are eye-opening, and at best tell of a potential school year with many starts and stops until graduation.

CFISD administrators illustrate for the board of trustees the responses from the recent parent survey. (CFISD Communications)

Cypress Parent Survey Results

A parent survey concluded Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, and the district announced the results at last night’s meeting. Upon the release of the parent survey results, administrators explained that the parents of 48,528 students intend to use the online learning option of CFISD Connect. However, a third (38,764 students) have responded that they want to send their children for in-person instruction. Additionally, 23% have not selected their intent. The district is preapring for the 25,955 students without their option selected to be in the school buildings.

Almost every parent requesting to have their children receive virtual instruction has asked for a district-provided laptop, however a much smaller percentage has asked for a “Hot spot” cellular device. (CFISD Communications)

Laptops for all students runs into China-sized problem

In efforts to minimize the number of students in school buildings, the board approved the virtual instruction option and has put $44 million to buy laptops and hot spot devices to ensure students will be able to learn digitally with teachers.

Although the money is ready to be spent, according to CFISD administrators, companies such as Lenovo are running into a supply problem as multiple Chinese manufacturers are now restricted by the U.S. federal government. Click here to see more about implicated human rights abuses at overseas tech manufacturers, that affect the speed of Cypress students getting Chromebooks.

As part of the laptop supply crunch, district technology staff have rounded up 27,300 Chromebooks that were in use in classrooms and sitting in inventory. The devices are already in the process of being imaged, updated and sanitized, for delivery to CFISD students.

However, with the supply chain problem, the delayed start of Sept. 8 might not be enough time for companies to deliver the remaining laptops for students before school is scheduled to begin.

The administration has developed a tiered priority delivery of Chromebooks. There are four tiers that Cypress students will be categorized into. The prioritization may also be changed as needed for the circumstances.

Click here to see how allegations of human rights abuse in China are slowing the process of delivering laptops to Cypress and Jersey Village students. (U.S. Department of Commerce)

CFISD Connect Chromebook and Hot Spot distribution priority list

Priority 1:

• Students at schools with 75% or higher economically disadvantaged population.

• All special needs education students – districtwide.

Priority 2:

• Same group of students as priority 1, but who also need a hot spot.

Priority 3:

• Economically disadvantaged students at other campuses and other students with tech requests.

Priority 4:

• Students who switched from On-Campus to CFISD Connect.

 

The distribution prioritization of available laptops and hot spot devices, as broadcast in the Aug. 6, 2020, CFISD school board meeting. (CFISD Communications)

According to the administrators, the initial delivery of 25,000 Lenovo-branded Chromebooks is now delayed to a September / October time frame. Another 55,000 are expected to be delivered through the upcoming fall semester.

To mitigate this, the existed fleet of 18,200 Windows laptops is being converted into Chromebooks.

Regarding cellular 4G hot spots, the district is readying 15,000 Verizon devices and 5,000 T-Mobile devices.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, at 6 p.m., in the CFISD Instructional Support Center, at 10300 Jones Rd, Houston, TX 77065.

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