Fort Worth ISD Delays Start of In-Person Class After 11-Hour Meeting, Protests

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Hundreds of parents chimed-in Tuesday night as the Fort Worth Independent School District took another stab at deciding when to send kids back to the classroom. This comes after voting just last week on a date for in-person learning.

In a meeting that went until 4 a.m., the board took a series of votes on everything from upholding last week's vote to open school Oct. 5, to push it back to the end of October with different outcomes with each vote.

Ultimately, the board compromised on the two-week extension for students in grades K-8 with a staggered return to school. High schoolers will adopt a hybrid learning model of in-person and virtual.

The vote caused many raised tempers with Trustee Quinton Phillips accusing members of hijacking the meeting with multiple substitute motions.

In a meeting that went until 4 a.m., the Fort Worth ISD board took a series of votes on everything from upholding last week’s vote to open school October 5, to pushing it back to the end of October with different outcomes with each vote. NBC 5’s Alanna Quillen explains their ultimate decision.

Trustee Carin Evans pushed the board to uphold last week's vote saying a revote set the stage for revisiting many votes, calling the move "dangerous."

As the board went back and forth, trustees Ashley Paz and Anne Darr expressed the task was taxing. "This is not what we signed up for," she said. "But, here it is."

"We are not qualified to make these decisions and I have no problem saying it, we are not public health officials," said Paz.

The vote comes after much controversy. Teachers planned to line the sidewalk with signs asking school board members to keep Fort Worth ISD classrooms closed but the teachers had some company.

Parents, students and others interested in opening school showed up, too.  

"We just want our voices heard. We feel like our voices haven't been heard loud enough compared to those who do not want us to go back," said Stephanie Plotner, a teacher interested in going back to school.

Many of those who stood alongside Plotner were motivated by a photo showing school board President Jacinto Ramos taking his son to a Cowboys game, after pushing to keep schools closed because of the risks of catching COVID-19.

Those wanting to keep school virtual said that's not the point.

"In schools, it's very difficult to keep masks on students," said Dena Faaborg, a grandparent. "I think being at home right now is the safest thing for all the students and the staff."

Both groups lined the street, police were called and moved them to a parking lot for safety, but the shouting just picked up.  

The emotions outside spilled over to the inside of Fort Worth ISD's board meeting.

"You're no longer looking for a solution for a children's education, you are using a political agenda to divide our community," said one person who spoke remotely.

"I spent the later point of the summer making my lesson plans as robust as possible, after a week of online learning a 1 a.m. vote told us none of that mattered," said a current teacher, who spoke remotely.

A total of 200 people signed up to speak at Tuesday's meeting. There were so many people they had to limit remarks to just one minute. It would still take more than three hours for the board to finish listening to a community at their wit's end.

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