Governor Waffles on Coronavirus Decision
By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – Due to an abundance of caution surrounding the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, all Houston County schools have decided to extend Spring Break until Monday, March 23. Lovelady ISD will announce its decision on Saturday, March 14.
Elkhart, Palestine, Slocum and Westwood ISDs begin their Spring Break on Monday, March 16.
In a late Friday afternoon statement from GISD Superintendent Don Jackson, the superintendent explained his reasoning.
The statement read: “We want to extend our thanks to our community for the concern and care that you have shown during the rapidly changing circumstances surrounding COVID-19. As a district, Grapeland ISD remains committed to providing an outstanding education in a safe and secure learning environment. Out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety and well-being of our students and families, our Crisis Response Team at GISD has made the proactive decision to extend Spring Break through Friday, March 20. Students should plan to return on Monday, March 23. Administrators, Principals and Directors will report on Monday, March 16. Teachers and Teacher Assistants will return to school on Wednesday, March 18th at 8:00 AM until 12:00 PM.”
He added, “We are working to prepare at home assignments for the students and will send the assignments out once they are ready to go. Dual Credit classes will continue online. It is imperative that dual credit students check their AC email daily during the next week.”
Concerning the Early Learning Center, Jackson stated, “The Early Learning Center will remain open under stricter visitation guidelines. All UIL Athletic and Academic activities including games and practices will be cancelled for the week.”
During this time, students will have access to a free brunch which will be distributed at Grapeland Elementary School in the carline starting at 10:00 to 11:00 AM or by bus to bus riders.
“By taking time during the week of (March 16-20), the district will be able to conduct a full assessment of risks for students and staff who traveled during their time off. The District will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation prior to reopening school on Monday March 23 and will communicate across all channels as updated information becomes available,” he stated.
On a personal note, I would like to applaud the decision made by the superintendents of the Houston County schools. It may be an over-reaction, but what if it’s not?
The health, safety and welfare of our children in the public school system should be the top priority and those entrusted with it should be ready to make tough choices. It appears the governor – while he can declare a state of disaster in 254 counties – is afraid to make that choice when it comes to public schools.
Simply put, he waffled.
During a Friday afternoon conference call, Gov. Abbott effectively passed the buck to local districts so they could make the choice for him.
If money is an issue, public education in the state of Texas has never received its fair share of funding from the state coffers. Yet, we have a Rainy Day Fund in excess of over $12 billion.
Guess what? It’s raining and the Coronavirus has caused the precipitation.
If you don’t think so, just look at the amount of money people have thumbed their collective nose at in recent days. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has been cancelled. The UIL State Basketball Tournament was cancelled, almost in mid-dribble. The NCAA has suspended March Madness. The NBA has postponed its season. Concerts have been cancelled, conventions have been rescheduled – the list goes on and on.
All of those events were slated to bring in billions of dollars and the promoters said “no, thank you” because of public health concerns over COVID-19.
In perhaps the greatest irony of all ironies, a conference on the Coronavirus was cancelled because of – you guessed it – the Coronavirus.
If it concerns accountability, Governor, tell your buddies at Pearson Publishing or whichever organization is bleeding the state this year with their new, revised testing schematic, to step up. They have the money – after all – you approved the allocation of it.
It’s not impossible. Our neighbors to the east in Louisiana closed their public school system until April 13.
You had a chance to lead and you blew it.
Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.