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Spring Branch ISD board votes to delay school year start

The special meeting was held in response to a recent order by Houston and Harris County health officials requiring students to stay home through at least Labor Day.

HOUSTON — Spring Branch ISD’s Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to push back the start of school one week to Aug. 24, with all students beginning class remotely.

In a letter issued to all SBISD families and staff members Wednesday afternoon, the district’s superintendent said the special meeting was held in response to a recent order by Houston and Harris County health officials requiring students to stay home through at least Labor Day.

“In-person learning for those families choosing for their students to physically return to school would be implemented beginning on September 8, unless local health authorities state otherwise,” wrote Dr. Jennifer Blaine. “As a result of the calendar change, the elementary school day will be extended by five minutes.”

A day earlier, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said only school officials themselves, not local health officials, can delay reopening all schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

During Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Houston’s mayor asked the state for consistency.

“Earlier the governor had indicated that local health authorities did have that authority, and the Texas Education Agency last week said school districts could delay opening and keep their state funding if local health officials ordered their closure, but now that has changed as of yesterday,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner.

A Houston Health Department spokesperson told KHOU 11 News Wednesday that Dr. David Persse, the city’s public health authority, is waiting on a legal interpretation before commenting on what Paxton’s letter means for reopening.

A top lawyer at the Harris County Attorney’s Office also told KHOU Wednesday his office is still sorting out next steps.

“The County Attorney’s office is working with various Harris County offices and our counterparts in other Texas counties to determine what - if any - impact the letter from the Attorney General's Office will have on school reopening plans,” wrote Robert Soard, First Assistant County Attorney, in response to emailed questions. “We anticipate we will develop a response within the next few days.”