By an 8 to 1 vote Thursday, the Fort Worth school board approved a later start to the upcoming school year. Classes will now begin Sept. 8, three weeks later than planned.
Before trustees voted, they heard dozens of opinions expressing the pros and cons of in-person versus online-only learning. Seventy-nine people signed up to speak, including Julie Foster. Her daughter is about to start 2nd grade.
"I feel most comfortable with the in-person learning, largely due to the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics," Foster said. "I believe this is who we need to be listening to in regard to school decisions. Personally, my daughter needs to be in school for her emotional, mental and social well-being. I believe that if safety protocols are enforced, the risks do not outweigh the rewards for our children."
Foster’s was the minority view. Most speakers were teachers, a lot also parents, who said school should not open yet for in-person learning, it’s too dangerous. Israel Contreras has taught in the district for 16 years and worries COVID-19 will appear once students and teachers get back together.
"We don’t have to guess what happens when we open. Numbers go up after schools open," Contreras said. "The American Association of Pediatrics says schools needed to start back. But when that began to be used for mass openings, the AAP president immediately qualified that statement by saying that schools should not open in the middle of a COVID outbreak. We are in the middle of a COVID outbreak."
Once classes start in Fort Worth, they’ll be online only for the first four weeks.