HISD board president advises parents, students to 'stay the heck home'

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- What will the rest of the school year look like? That is the question on the minds of students and parents all across the state of Texas. This is unprecedented territory for which so many questions still don't have answers. But it is top of mind for those in the education business.

"We're continuing to do our job," said Houston Federation of Teachers president Zeph Capo. "Working with our educators' best practices on developing online learning, working on contingency plans to make sure kids have access to assignments, and access to teachers. "

As for what that looks like? Expect your district to communicate with you through email, telephone and /or social media for the latest information. Many of them are updating their plans daily online.

At a news conference in San Antonio on Monday, education commissioner Mike Morath joined Governor Greg Abbott but no reporters asked any questions about education. They focused on medical testing availability and protocol.

On Monday, Abbott waived the requirement for the STAAR standardized tests and asked the feds to waive their testing.

"Waiving STAAR requirements is something that was necessary for our families, our students, our teachers," said Capo. "There is a lot of stress out right now. A lot of concern about people's safety and health, and the last thing they need is the stress and concern of the test."

As for whether students have to make up the extra days they've missed? There is no answer yet. There are also no answers for AP testing, final exams, proms, graduations or how to educate the less fortunate or those with special needs.

Right now, the focus is in figuring out how to do those things while making sure families stay healthy. That includes the delivery of food in many districts and the request for people to stay home when possible.

"This is my 34th year in public education and I have never experienced anything quite like this," said Martha Salazar Zamora, superintendent for Tomball ISD.

Nineteen-thousand students and their parents are looking to her team for answers.

"Understand that public school systems, right now, are working nonstop to create the best remote learning opportunities that we can for students, so that we can continue during the time that they're not in school. We know that's indefinite right now," said Zamora.

Each day brings new challenges as Zamora said she and other superintendents are on daily calls with both the Texas Education Agency and their own executive staffs, trying to develop the best way to offer distance learning.

"If I can get the public to focus on anything right now it's stay the heck home. If you don't need to be out and about, stay home," said Sue Deigaard.

Deigaard is the school board president for the state's largest district, HISD. She's also a parent and knows the stresses of trying to figure out the best way to educate special needs children and those of lesser financial means. It will be especially challenging in elementary and middle schools, where students don't have laptops or access to the Internet.

"We're hoping this is just through the end of the month, like HISD initially announced it would be, but this could go on for longer," she said. "There are just so many unknowns on so many fronts with us right now."

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