'I don't feel safe' Families worried about in-person finals in Spring Branch ISD

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- School districts are crossing another hurdle in the age of online learning during a pandemic - what to do about final exams.

"I don't feel safe," said Nara Yoo, a junior at Memorial High School.

With finals just about three weeks away, Yoo is concerned not only about her performance, but also about where she will have to take them.

"You don't know everybody at school. You don't know where everybody has been. It's not safe at all," she added.

Yoo has been going to school virtually since the beginning of the semester, and now she feels uneasy that Spring Branch ISD wants students to take final exams in-person.

"We are not being given the option of whether or not to put our children at risk," said parent Brian Moore, who has the same concerns.

His stepdaughter is a freshman at Spring Woods High School. She has also been learning remotely due to her sister's asthma, which means she's been taking tests and quizzes online for weeks.

"What qualitatively is so different in the mid-terms that they have to be done in-person?" Moore asked.

In a statement to ABC13, Spring Branch ISD called the finals a "required assessment, which cannot be reasonably or equitably administered remotely."

"The COVID-19 crisis should take precedence over concerns about cheating," Moore responded.

The district also said on-campus exam administrations will be scheduled to abide by the health and safety guidelines, and that high school principals are committed to working with families who have concerns or unique situational needs.

ABC13 surveyed other Houston area school districts about their plans for final exams, but not everyone responded.

HISD said their response would be sent Wednesday.

Clear Creek ISD, Katy ISD and Pearland ISD said students learning remotely will also take exams remotely.

Cypress-Fairbanks ISD has canceled finals for the entire year.

There is an online petition with more than 1,500 signatures imploring Spring Branch ISD to also cancel final exams this year.

Yoo and Moore do not think it needs to come to that, but they said they would feel safer if taking the exams by remote were an option.

"With whatever precautions and safeguards that the district wants us to take to ensure the tests are taken honestly," Moore said.

Spring Branch ISD sent the following statement regarding the issue:

"Spring Branch ISD has a single-focused goal known as T-2-4 where every district graduate will attain a technical certificate, military training, or a 2- or 4-year college degree. In this regard, we agree with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) guidance requiring Texas students to come on campus to complete a required assessment that plays a significant role in determining class rank, or required for graduation or grade-level promotion, where it cannot be reasonably or equitably administered remotely. On-campus exam administrations will be scheduled to abide by the health and safety guidelines of the Learn SBISD plan, including face mask requirements and social distancing. In addition, SBISD's high school principals are committed to working with families who have concerns or unique situational needs."
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