Houston ISD’s administration wants to hold online-only classes on Election Day this November, citing safety concerns at more than 100 campuses that are expected to be used as polling locations.
“While it is not unusual for our school sites to be used as polling locations, the COVID-19 pandemic makes the safety of our students and staff more challenging when significant numbers of voters would be entering the schools throughout the day,” district officials wrote in documents provided to the school board.
HISD trustees are expected to vote Sept. 10 on the request.
It is not immediately clear whether the Texas Education Agency will penalize HISD for not offering in-person classes on Election Day, which is Nov. 3.
Under current TEA guidelines, public school districts can keep campuses closed up to eight weeks at the outset of the school year, though they must start to offer some in-person classes after the fourth week. Election Day falls on HISD’s ninth week of classes.
Districts that violate TEA guidelines risk losing state funding. However, TEA officials have said they plan to remain flexible amid the pandemic on safety matters.
As we know there will be 808 voting locations in Harris County on Election Day, which is nearly one per precinct. Schools have always been used as polling places – the elementary (Travis) and middle (Hogg) schools in my neighborhood are voting locations, as are nearby Crockett and Field elementaries. It is completely sensible to keep the kids home on a day when these schools will be full of strangers, in this time of pandemic. I would very much hope that the TEA will see it that way, but given some of the desperate shenanigans that are being pulled right now, I will need to hear it from them before I believe it. I hope HISD has been checking in with the TEA on this, and I hope the trustees are fully informed on this when they vote. We’ll find out next week.