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Union leader: Most Houston school bus drivers aren't coming back to work during coronavirus pandemic

80% of Houston school bus drivers are seniors with health issues and most are afraid to return to work.

HOUSTON — In about six weeks, the Texas Education Agency says schools must reopen with options for in-person and remote learning.

Parents will be able to choose which option they prefer.

However, the unions representing Houston teachers and support staff say students should stay home until COVID-19 cases decline for at least two weeks.

Until then, they say learning in person isn’t safe, even with safety measures in place.

“The Houston Independent School District is in no way, shape, or form prepared,” said Andy Dewey, head of the Houston Federation of Teachers. “If opening schools is about freeing parents to go to work, it is risking the lives, health and safety of everyone who has to walk into those school buildings.”

The teachers union held a virtual press conference with the Houston Educational Support Personnel Union Monday to announce their safety recommendations for the upcoming school year.

The unions are calling for a phased in approach to in-person learning based on COVID-19’s spread in the community. Based on current numbers, they believe all schools should begin the year with remote learning.

If HISD requires teachers to return to the classroom, HFT leadership says educators will have to decide if working or resigning is the right decision for their personal health and their families.

HESP president Wretha Thomas says many school bus drivers have already made up their minds. She says 80 percent of Houston school bus drivers are seniors with health issues.

“I did a survey yesterday on most of the bus drivers. Most of the bus drivers are saying they’re not going to come back to work,” said Thomas. “I’m not going to be encouraging my drivers to go back to work and put themselves in a position that could kill them.”

HISD did not reply to questions about the potential for a school bus driver shortage in the fall.

The district sent the following written statement:

"With safety at the forefront of our decisions, we are finalizing the reopening plan for the 2020-2021 school year.

We continue to review the guidance provided by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for reopening schools and listening to the voices of our stakeholders, including students, parents, educators, staff, and health officials.

As we continue to navigate the ongoing pandemic, we remain committed to two primary goals — providing a high-quality education for all students and ensuring the safety of both our students and staff.

We will continue to provide rigorous, TEKS-based, online instruction through HISD @ H.O.M.E. as well as face-to-face instruction based on parent selection for what is best for their children. We respect our parent’s ability to choose an option of remote learning or face-to-face and will be sending out a brief survey asking parents to select a method of instruction to assist the planning at the campus level.

Our ultimate goal is to provide families with options so they can choose what works best — and what they feel is safest — for their children.

Our reopening plan for the upcoming school year will be announced on July 15."

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