School districts urged by health experts to discuss at-home learning options for the Fall

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- With COVID-19 cases surging in Texas, education and healthcare leaders are asking the Texas Education Agency to reconsider its plans to force every school district to open daily this fall.

SEE RELATED STORY: Mayor Sylvester Turner proposes 2-week shutdown to 're-calibrate'

"I really do think they need to walk this back, they need to reconsider this, they need to see where we are on the ground," said Zeph Capo, President of Texas AFT, the union representing teachers and other educators in Texas. "They need to give local school districts the flexibility to deliver instruction the way it fits their community. Because what works in Marfa may be different than what works in Houston."

Parents anticipate Houston-area districts plan to announce a strategy for classes this week, including HISD, which is set to publicly unveil its plans on Wednesday.

Anne Sung, a member of the HISD school board, says she is frustrated that the TEA has announced expectations that schools open for five days a week instruction, but offered no COVID-19 testing or other significant health support for people who may get sick in the school environment.

WATCH: Local education leaders answered your questions about back to school plans in ABC13's virtual town hall
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YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED: In the video above, ABC13 took YOUR questions to school leaders and health experts on how districts are preparing amid COVID-19, and how they intend to address concerns about student access to the internet, computers and other technology.

"Opening schools is one thing. You need to know if you can stay open or not. You need to know if the virus is spreading. We haven't seen any talk of testing, even randomized testing, to see if people are going to get sick from school," she said.

The conversation of putting kids on school buses and teachers in classrooms is happening even as cases are surging in Texas.

With more than 10,000 Texans hospitalized, and Houston ICU beds above capacity, local leaders are asking for a lockdown, first.

Mayor Sylvester Turner also said he wants children to return in August, but in order to give parents, teachers and faculty the comfort level they need, coronavirus cases and hospitalizations need to drop.

"You don't send kids back to school when there's a raging fire and the fire is still burning in August. Put the fire out in July. Shut down for a couple of weeks. Then let's see where things are," said Turner.

"Even if the kids are not major sources of transmission, eventually there's enough going on that school bus drivers will start to get sick," said infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Hotez of the Baylor College of Medicine. "Teachers will start to get sick, you know school cafeteria workers will get sick. And eventually, some of them will go to the hospital."

Some districts have scheduled virtual meetings on Monday to discuss plans for the 2020-2021 school year.

  • Friendswood ISD announced it will hold its third virtual committee meeting.

Gov. Greg Abbott will ultimately make the decision to shut down or not. He said numerous times a shut down is the last resort but on Friday, he said it's the next step if numbers don't get under control.

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