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Education in the Pandemic | UH researchers studying impacts found teachers are 'key to any success'

Houston ISD parent Ali Cooper says her PTA is increasing support of teachers during latest wave of COVID-19. "We appreciate them so much."

HOUSTON — At Houston ISD’s Harvard Elementary School, the PTA is laying out its love for the educators who continue to ride the waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“My heart goes out to them,” said PTA member Ali Cooper. “We appreciate them so much.” 

A teacher herself, Cooper understands the challenges school staff are facing while feeling compassion for the children who learn better in a classroom setting. 

“It’s much better this year. I mean, we know more," she said. "Last year was so scary and we didn’t know what was going on.”

Since March 2020, school districts across the Houston area have created and updated their COVID-19 protocols. 

A rise in cases of the highly-contagious COVID-19 omicron variant is pushing smaller districts like Sealy ISD to the brink. The school district, which is west of Katy, cancelled classes from last Friday to Tuesday in hopes that five days home would allow staff and students to keep from spreading the virus.

Because of a rise in COVID-19 cases, Houston ISD cancelled a staff development day Tuesday. Students were already scheduled to take today off. 

Other school districts, like Conroe ISD and Tomball ISD have sent their superintendents and other district administrators into classrooms, so the school leaders can better understand how teachers and staff are handling the historic pandemic.

At the University of Houston, faculty member Jorge Gonzalez is leading a team of doctoral research students. 

“We are looking at the data for unusual patterns,” said Gonzalez. 

Last summer, he and team of student researchers began studying the impact of COVID-19 on education in rural minority communities. 

“The impact was magnified and exacerbated for some communities more than others,” with poorer communities more affected by remote learning.

“But one really positive thing we found is the relationships with teachers were key to any success the family was going to have,” said Gonzalez. 

His research shows teachers, and parent communication with teachers, makes a difference.

The UH researchers just submitted their data for publication with plans to conduct focus groups with families later this semester. Gonzalez and his team hope to know more about the pandemic’s impact on education later this year.

Cooper understands COVID-19 cases will rise and fall. She knows there will be an impact on her children’s education, after a round of remote learning and limitations put in place because of the pandemic. Cooper also knows she needs stay the course. 

“At Harvard Elementary, our number one priority is just supporting our teachers.”

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