As local public health conditions improve, HISD moves COVID-19 Gauge from red to orange

As local public health conditions continue to improve based on data, the Houston Independent School District will be moving its COVID Gauge from red to orange, a measure that allows students to return to classrooms and employees to return full-time to district workspaces.

The decision to shift from red to orange was based on the 14-Day Average Harris County COVID-19 positivity rate in conjunction with the implementation of enhanced safety protocols and guidance from public health and education officials.

Data shows that the 14-day average in Harris County has been under 7 percent for more than two weeks. Per the HISD COVID Gauge, the move to orange requires the average to be between 4 and 7 percent.  

Level 2: Orange signifies a significant and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 in the community as determined by local health officials. While both in-person and virtual learning are allowed, rolling school closures may be needed, masks are required, and physical distancing must be implemented whenever possible.

“While we’re glad to see data trending in the right direction, we must remain vigilant,” Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan said. “It’s imperative that we continue to follow protocols as outlined in our Communicable Disease Plan to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.”

Additionally, students and staff are advised to minimize contacts, avoid medium and large gatherings, and only visit places following public health guidelines.

The Gauge had been at Level 1: Red since its summer inception, indicating a severe and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 in the community. Red required virtual learning for students and remote working for most employees. Students and staff also were urged to minimize contacts and stay home when possible.

In-person learning is set to resume on Monday, Oct. 19. HISD staff are scheduled to return to work full time beginning Monday, Oct. 12.

Additionally, district officials reviewed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas Education Agency, HISD Communicable Disease Plan, and state and local health departments, including Harris County Public Health, Baylor College of Medicine, and Houston Methodist. The district also reviewed guidance from the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Under orange, building capacity is determined by space with the goal of keeping students and employees — and their desks and workspaces — 6 feet apart whenever possible. Student movement on campus is limited. Meetings are virtual, and alternating schedules can be implemented, if needed. Additionally, enhanced cleaning protocols are required.

Other Level 2: Orange protocols include:

  • Student activities: Considered on case-by-case basis with no assemblies or field trips.
  • Athletics: Competitions and practices permitted based on conditions. Varsity games held at district stadiums with limited games. Sub-varsity games held on campus with no fans.
  • Student meals: Meals served in classrooms and cafeterias for in-person learning with curbside pickup available for students learning virtually.
  • Bus service: Limited to special education, homeless, elementary, and specialty school students, as well as those who live along high-risk routes. Additional priority will be given to middle school students if capacity allows. Students must sit one per seat.

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