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Humble ISD explains decision to adjust COVID-19 closure standards amid criticism

The district is the latest to change metrics used to determine if cases should lead to campus closures.

HUMBLE, Texas — All Humble ISD schools would be closed this week if the district still used original COVID-19 standards because the number of active cases among students and staff recently reached a benchmark.

But the superintendent got permission from the board to make adjustments.

And, as a result, campuses remain open.

"They gaslighted parents and they changed the metric system,” said Humble ISD parent Larissa Powell.

We first met Powell last summer as her daughter, Izzy, worked to make and collect thousands of face coverings for district staff.

Two of Powell’s six children attend in-person classes where she said she wants to keep them.

But not at the expense of their health or that of others.

“I want them to have district leaders that back the decisions that they make and don’t press the delete button once they have to follow the decisions that they made,” said Powell.

The district contends that things have evolved since the original COVID rubric, plan or matrix was developed.

"The COVID matrix was developed four months ago and represented our best thinking at the time,” said chief communications officer Jamie Mount.

She said more is now known about the virus, the lack of classroom spread, the needs of local hospitals and student success.

Information presented on the district's COVID dashboard will be taken in greater context.

"We are continuing to publish the matrix because we believe it’s important to have access to the information," said Mount.  "But we’re no longer using the matrix to drive closure decisions.”

Those will be made on more of a campus by campus basis.

And even Powell admits that going all-virtual district-wide, which original standards laid out, might be unrealistic at this point.

"Most definitely it would, it would be hard,” said Powell.

More information on Humble ISD's matrix adjustment:

Humble ISD strives to meet each child’s needs in partnership with parents. Humble ISD is committed to offering families choices: on campus learning, learning online at home; or learning online at home with on campus UIL activities. 

In early September, district staff members developed a Closure Rubric to provide local metrics focused on our community.  Since September, schools in our city, state, nation, and world re-opened for on-campus instruction. Over the past months, studies and the district’s own data have shown no consistent relationship exists between in-person school and the spread of coronavirus. Furthermore, data has shown learning loss and negative mental health impact to some children while buildings were closed. 

The context in which Humble ISD’s District Closure Rubric was developed has evolved. More is known about the virus, the lack of classroom spread, the needs of our local hospitals, and students needing access to their schools, than was known in early September.

Humble ISD will continue publishing its community matrix as part of an overall dataset available to all in the Humble ISD Family so that information is publicly accessible. The matrix will not be used to make district closure decisions. Closure decisions will be made at the classroom, program, or campus level. Cases are monitored daily; case-specific triage at the classroom or program level has worked well this fall. District and campus administrators will continue to work together to determine if a classroom or activity needs to move online for a period of time.

Humble ISD receives equal funding whether students learn online or on campus. The district is required by TEA to offer on campus learning to all students except at the high school level, where a hybrid approach is permitted by the state but was found challenging by some teachers, students and parents.  

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