Fort Worth ISD leaders plan to hold an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the opening of the new school year, district officials announced.
The Fort Worth ISD Board of Education meeting will be held online at 8 a.m. Thursday. Board president Jacinto Ramos, Jr. said the meeting will discuss the options for reopening schools.
“Teachers, parents, community leaders & students...we want to hear your thoughts, beliefs & feelings,” Ramos wrote on Twitter.
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The emergency meeting comes days after newly issued guidance from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said local health authorities may not issue ‘sweeping orders closing schools’ for the sole purpose of preventing future COVID-19 infections. Such orders had been issued in Dallas and Tarrant counties, with a joint order issued last week stating public and non-religious private schools in Tarrant County would be online only until Sept. 28.
Ulises Orozco will soon start his first year of teaching at O.D. Wyatt High School. He plans to tune in to the meeting on Thursday.
“I want to be there with the students, I want to be able to go with a hands on approach. I want to be able to build relationships with them but at the same time, I really know that’s not in the best interest of anybody right now,” Orozco said. “I think this pandemic is serious and I feel like any large gathering such as the school day is almost like a death sentence. It’s truly scary. So do I want to open? Yes, Do I feel like we should wait? Yes.”
Orozco said he would support starting off the school year online but with the ever-evolving pandemic, he said he’s been difficult to plan at all.
“It’s been very frustrating to say the least. I feel there are a lot of moving parts, a lot of voices to listen to, and some point, I find myself questioning, who’s right? Who am I supposed to listen to?” he told NBC 5.
“It’s gotten to the point where no matter comes out of the news, what e-mail is sent by the superintendent, I just know that’s not going to last very long.”
Orozco is not alone in advocating for virtual learning to start the new school year. Nandini Balial, an English teacher at Carter Riverside High School, said she also has concerns about in-person learning.
“I miss giving instructions. I miss interacting with my students. I miss asking about their lives and 'hey, how are you doing?' and 'what happened with that doctor’s appointment?' Things like that. I desperately miss them, but I also don’t want to get an illness for which there is no vaccine,” Balial said. “I don’t control what my students do in the halls. I don’t know what they do at lunch or who they’ve been with or what they’ve been doing.”
Balial said she also has questions on how the district would handle a situation where a teacher was infected.
“You think a substitute is going to go into a classroom where a teacher got sick? You’d have to isolate all of those students who have exposed to that teacher. What happens to those student’s families?” she questioned. “I am not expendable and treating me as expendable endangers the future of your district.”
Some, however, told NBC 5 they are comfortable with in-person instruction with precautions in place. Bill Landy has been with McLean Middle School for 17 years. As a history teacher, yearbook and newspaper advisor, volleyball coach, and a father of a student, Landy wears multiple hats.
“For the most part, I think I would be comfortable going back to school teaching with these precautions. We could go back to where if it got worse, we’ve already seen a plan kind of in place in the spring so we could fall back to that, if necessary,” Landy said. “I am personally am ready to go back, but I think a lot of that is I’m best at teaching when I’m engaging with my students but I understand that’s not how everybody feels and rightfully, so.”
Landy said students like his daughter also learn better in-person when it comes to certain subjects, like science. However, he noted the decision was a difficult balance for everyone involved.
“I can tell you what we want the most, we just want a plan. It’s not going to be popular with 100% and people have to understand that,” he said.
“You’re not going to have 100% of people who are happy with every decision, but I think as long as the communication lines are open, that’s really helpful. People feel like they have toes in the sand, so to speak. They’re part of the conversation. They don’t want to be part of it after, they just want to know what’s going along so they can plan.”
For more information on how to watch the meeting, click here.