How do districts determine school closures? Here's a breakdown

Thursday, August 26, 2021
How do districts determine school closures? Here's a breakdown
In the wake of a Fort Bend ISD campus closing due to COVID, Eyewitness News looked into how certain districts in the area determine the threshold on which it reverts to closing a school.

RICHMOND, Texas (KTRK) -- Pecan Grove Elementary School in Fort Bend ISD was forced to temporary stop in-person learning on Monday and switch to virtual classes due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Classes went completely virtual on Tuesday and will stay that way for the remainder of the week. Students will tentatively return to face-to-face instruction on Monday, Aug. 30.

A letter sent to parents said the district's COVID response team looked into "a wide range of internal and external indicators" to determine the level of risk or disruptions to in-person classes.

The letter read in part:

"All data suggested a significant impact to our ability to adequately staff the campus and has caused an operational disruption that would prevent us from continuing face-to-face instruction at this time.

The duration of this transition is contingent upon campus staffing and several other internal and external environmental factors that are being monitored daily. It is our intention to return to face-to-face instruction for students once we can do so."

Despite the closure, the school was busy Tuesday morning, but it wasn't to drop off students. Parents were seen picking up laptops for virtual learning.

WATCH: Here's what goes into play when a school shuts down over COVID

There's a lot that goes into play when a district decides to close a campus over COVID. ABC13's Marla Carter explains in the video above.

"That's not something that I expected this morning," said Grace Josephs, a Pecan Grove Elementary parent.

Josephs arrived to drop off her son only to see school wasn't happening in-person.

ABC13 reached out to several Houston-area school districts to find out what sort of criteria or threshold must be met in order for a district to decide to close a school due to the virus.

Fort Bend ISD and Houston ISD said the decision to close a school is made on a case-by-case-basis.

HISD, the largest school district in the state, said there's no specific threshold and instead, it assesses each situation.

Fort Bend ISD said the switch to remote learning happens when normal operations are not feasible due to the number of teachers or students that are absent.

Katy ISD, on the other hand, said it does have specific thresholds, going from stage 5 to stage 1. A facility would close if more than 10% of the facility occupancy has COVID or if a health department deems a closure is necessary.

Meanwhile, The Village School, a private school in the Energy Corridor, said it has had just four COVID cases this school year. Between all grade levels, the school has a total of 1,300 students.

"We are 100% in-person. We feel that's the best way for students to learn," said Jeff Bond, the director of health and safety at The Village School.

From the beginning, The Village School announced it was requiring masks and said if there is a COVID outbreak, officials would first call the health department for guidance.

"They really help with contact tracing and what really is our course of action," said Bond.

As for all the safety measures in place, The Village School has a list:

  • Mandatory mask wearing for all, regardless of vaccination status
  • Temperature monitoring
  • Healthy hand hygiene
  • Physical distancing (3+ feet)
  • Self-screening guidelines
  • Quarantine and isolation requirements
  • Plexiglass shields during group gatherings such as lunch time in the cafeteria
  • Limiting large, in-person gatherings
  • Cleaning and sanitizing high-frequency touch points on campus with a deep cleaning each night

The FBISD school board just approved a mask mandate on Monday night. It's expected to go into effect soon.

For updates on this report, follow ABC13 reporter Marla Carter on Facebook,Twitter and Instagram.