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Teachers race to create last-minute lessons after Tropical Storm Beta forces Houston-area school districts to move classes online

A number of school districts tapped into virtual learning options rather than cancel classes, which was the really only option before the pandemic.

HUMBLE, Texas — The biggest messages of the day: stay off the road. That’s why a number of Houston-area school districts moved classes entirely online, at least for the day.

It's a last-minute swap made possible in a pinch because of the pandemic. So many families and school districts know how to handle virtual learning.

Humble ISD science teacher Cristina Ford pivoted and created a lesson early Tuesday morning. Just before 6:30 a.m., Humble ISD made the decision to move classes online because of the rain associated with Tropical Storm Beta.

Ford, a mother of two elementary school children, read the district’s emergency alert and first went into teacher mode.

“Teacher mode gets up,” said Ford during a Zoom video call. “But this morning, it was one of those, OK, I can still do the lab. I have my pots I can do my things with. And I went through the recycling bin and pulled out a 2-liter bottle. And I was like, I can do this.”

Then she realized she lacked one vital supply.

“I didn’t have balloons. So that’s when mom came into gear. OK! Let’s get dressed. I’ll get you McDonald’s on the way to CVS," she said.

Ford made it home in time to set up her lesson for Whispering Pines Elementary School students.

“To be honest, it’s a good fallback plan,” said Ford of virtual learning as option on inclement weather days. “I think it is going to be a learning phase for us. But I do think it’s definitely something that we’re going to do in the future.”

So what do we learn with a pot, 2-liter bottle and balloons?

“It’s boiling water, and you look at changing states of matter,” Ford said, 

hich, given the circumstances, is a lesson we all could learn today. The world is changing. But we still have our resources. They just may be in different forms.