HOUSTON — Dr. Tara Cummings is a mother of two Cy-Fair ISD students. She opted to have her kids start the year virtually when the district opens its doors to students on Sept. 8.
"This decision is not easy," Cummings said. "Most parents are agonizing over this one way or another."
Cummings is also a licensed psychologist who's been helping teachers struggling with worry and anxiety about returning to the classroom mid-pandemic.
"Kids are going to get sick," Cummings said. "Staff members are going to get sick. There's going to be community spread and people are going to die."
Last week, Cummings sent a letter to the CFISD school board and Superintendent Mark Henry describing one teacher's mental health crisis and the toll it's taking.
"They feel the district doesn't care about their safety," Cummings said about the teachers she has talked with."It's traumatic to be going back. It's traumatic to be thinking, 'I could bring this home to someone in my family.'"
Public health experts agree teachers need a safe work environment.
"We shouldn't be putting them in a position where they're set up to fail," infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Hotez said.
Hotez said he's encouraged with the latest local numbers.
"This is sort of crunch time right now," Hotez said.
If declining transmission rates continue, he believes it may be safe to resume in-person learning by September. But if cases are still high, it won't matter what schools try to do to make it safe.
"Even with all those measures, they'll only work if the level of COVID-19 transmission in the community is low," Hotez said.
The #AFTDoesn'tSpeakForMe has gained traction online. Teachers who do not feel concerned about returning to the classroom right now have been tweeting support and solidarity with CFISD and the safety measures they've put in place.
CFISD released this statement:
"Cypress-Fairbanks ISD is offering the choice of On-Campus learning with numerous health and safety protocols and CFISD Connect, a remote learning option. Both options will follow the same instructional year calendar, grading procedures, and attendance policies, as well as the same curriculum. Parents may choose which option best meets the needs of their children and/or families. The deadline for making changes to the selection is Tuesday, Aug. 25, and the first day of instruction is Tuesday, Sept. 8.
"A temporary restraining order was issued Friday night, allowing teachers and staff to attend professional development training remotely from home until on-campus student instruction resumes (Sept. 8). Litigation is ongoing this weekend with an appeal of the temporary restraining order currently pending before the Texas Supreme Court."