HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan embarked on a whirlwind tour of the district on Tuesday as hundreds of thousands of students, educators, parents, and staff began the first day of the 2020-2021 school year virtually with a charge to Reconnect Safely and Return Strong.
Lathan spent the day making in-person and virtual visits to campuses and online classrooms to speak with students, parents, and teachers encouraging them as they began, calling the 2020-2021 school year the district’s Year of Flexibility.
“We are very excited for today because March was the last time many of us saw our students,” she said before the start of the districtwide tour. “The first day of school certainly looks different this year, however, I remain optimistic that with continued determination, resilience, and flexibility, 2020-21 can be our best year yet.”
The in-person stops included Trinity United Methodist Church, a “Sanctuary of Learning” site in Houston’s Third Ward that opened its doors to serve as a safe virtual learning space for students from Blackshear Elementary. Other stops included HISD Digital Learning Centers for students in need of technological resources and the home of the Carrillo family whose students received digital supports from the district to ensure they succeed through online learning.
“I have three children, and I didn’t have a computer or resources for each of them,” Ruby Carrillo said. “So, when the district called to tell me they had a device available for each of them it made a big difference for our family.”
After hosting her annual back-to-school press conference, Lathan stopped by the home of two twin brothers who are special education students at Yates High School to see how they were faring on their first day of virtual learning. HISD serves close to 17,000 special education students, and the brothers are among those students who received devices to help them this school year.
“The district supplied us with the devices and hotspots for my sons,” their father said. “It was something that was greatly needed to help them better their education, and without that help this would have been impossible.”
After a few virtual classroom surprise visits, Lathan closed out the day at the home of
Heights High School student Edgar DeJesus, who logged perfect attendance at district’s all-virtual Camp Spark. Lathan was joined by representatives from H-E-B, Academy, Junior Achievement of Texas and Houston Texans mascot Toro, who presented Edgar with gifts and prizes, including an autographed football, gift cards and a Bluetooth boombox.
“Camp Spark was really fun,” he said. “It taught me in a lot of fun ways, and it got me very excited for the new school year.”
For more information about HISD’s reopening plan, including safety protocols and the district’s instructional continuity plan are available at HoustonISD.org/Reopening.