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Fort Worth ISD Delays In-Person Learning

Fort Worth ISD school bus
Tony Gutierrez
Associated Press

The Fort Worth school board has voted to delay in-person learning by two weeks to October 19.

The decision came after the school board just last week decided to start optional in-person classes on October 5.

Last Friday, the board announced it would re-evaluate the decision and recast their votes Tuesday because of concerns about the coronavirus. Tarrant County saw a spike in COVID-19 cases last week — the numbers almost doubled from the week prior.

Before Tuesday night's meeting, more than 100 parents and teachers gathered outside the Fort Worth ISD administration building. Some were protesting the re-vote and others were showing support.

Many concerned community members sounded off during the meeting, which lasted longer than 10 hours and stretched into Wednesday morning.

Parent Kenneth Brown told the school board that families should have a choice.

"I urge you to stand by what you've approved and reopen in-person learning on October 5, for those that choose to return back to school," Brown said. “We all know that in-person learning is superior to online learning, with home distractions and technology issues there are many distractions.”

But Fort Worth teacher Hayley Franklin said it's still too risky to send teachers and students back to campus.

"Parents want a choice but what about teachers? Where's our choice?” she asked. “I am tired of people saying, 'Think about the children!' I am. That's why I became an educator. Oh, and I'm also someone's child too.”

Victor Franklin said he empathizes with the fear some teachers are feeling.

"Your teachers are scared because they are not confident in your ability to keep them safe, and quite frankly, they have a good reason to be,” Franklin said. “Numerous schools across North Texas have already been forced to close or have reported outbreaks of COVID. This will happen here too if we reopen before it is safe."

Parent Mandy Wright said the district should listen to and work with its teachers, but she wants her three kids back in the classroom.

"Our students are academically behind, virtual learning is putting them even further behind. While our teachers and administrators have done a fabulous job, virtual learning and the connectivity and website issues make basic learning difficult," she said.

The motion to push back the start date passed with a 5-4 vote. Trustees Tobi Jackson, Daphne Brookins, C.J. Evans and Norman Robbins voted against the measure. Board members Anne Darr, Quinton Phillips, Anael Luebanos, Ashley Paz, and President Jacinto Ramos Jr. were in favor.

The school board also approved a hybrid learning model for high schools when in-person classes resume. That plan would split students into groups, with each group on campus alternating days.