MONT BELVIEU, Texas — Many districts in Harris County have delayed starting school till September with most opting to do only virtual learning at least through mid-October.
Some teachers are even protesting to delay in-person learning even longer. But in neighboring Chambers County, all public school students may return to classrooms as early August 13.
Barbers Hill is one of three districts in the rural county. Eighty percent of its students have committed to in-person learning for the start of the school year.
Superintendent Dr. Greg Poole said, “It’s absolutely what's best for kids. I think a lot of political decisions are being made.”
The district said it spent millions on safety protocols, from thermometers to masks and more.
“We've purchased a three-sided plexiglass sneeze guard if you will, that you see in retail outlets, for every single child," Dr. Poole explains.
Teachers' unions have been among the most outspoken critics of in-person learning.
Dr. Poole said, “Fortunately we just haven't experienced that kind of outright defiance or aggressive behavior.”
A potential factor? Barber's Hill pays the highest average teacher’s salary in the state at $71,000 dollars a year.
Dr. Poole adds, “Many of them have children and they say the same thing, ‘My kids need to be in school.’”
In fact, Dr. Poole has a son who will be attending in-person classes in the district next week.
Clearly, there are differences between metropolitan Houston and sparsely populated Barbers Hill. Barbers Hill has 6,000 students. Houston I.S.D. has 210,000.
Poole doesn’t believe size makes a difference and said, “One of the biggest challenges educators face is not getting drawn into the politics of this situation.”
Anahuac ISD and East Chambers ISD are also starting the school year in August, offering in-person classes.