With return to face-to-face instruction, Sanctuaries of Learning program comes to a close

The Houston Independent School District partnered with several churches throughout the city for the Sanctuaries of Learning program, which offered hundreds of students a safe place to participate in virtual learning.

Now, as the district returns to face-to-face instruction this week, the program is ending, but not before having served an important purpose for HISD students and staff alike.

The program served students who had a device but were not old enough to stay home alone or lacked internet access. Participating students spent their school days in the church buildings, supervised by HISD staff and church volunteers and receiving breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

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HISD to recognize Bullying Prevention Week

As part of National Bullying Prevention Month in October, HISD is recognizing this week as Bullying Prevention Week to raise awareness about the damaging effects of bullying.

Every day, thousands of students experience some form of bullying, especially online through social media and texts. Cyberbullying has increased significantly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. So now is a great time for HISD schools, staff, and students to raise awareness about bullying and the role we all play in making our schools accepting and welcoming environments for all children.  

This week has been designated HISD Bullying Prevention Week in conjunction with the Sandy Hook Promise “Start with Hello” campaign.  

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Ericka Austin named new principal of Sugar Grove Middle School

Ericka Austin has been selected as the new principal of Sugar Grove Middle School. 

Austin joined HISD in 2014 as a teacher specialist at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, after beginning her career in Arlington ISD as a fifth-grade math and science teacher and later, grade-level chair. She also served as a teacher specialist at High School Ahead Academy before moving into the role of a data-driven instructional specialist for the district. In 2019, she returned to High School Ahead Academy as principal.

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Hotline available this weekend to support return to face-to-face instruction

The Houston Independent School District’s HISD @ H.O.M.E. Hotline will be available this weekend to provide answers to questions from students and parents about fall distance learning.

Students and parents can call the HISD @ H.O.M.E. Hotline at 713-556-INFO (4636), Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 17 and 18, from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Operators will be on hand to answer questions in English and Spanish.

Nutrition Services launches Neighborhood Supersites to feed community

Facing hundreds of cars in a line that stretched down the street and around the block, it would have been easy for Nutrition Services staff to feel overwhelmed at their first neighborhood supersite in southeast Houston.

But for a department known for its dedication to keeping families fed and well-nourished, it was all in a day’s work on Wednesday — the launch of weekly community food distributions.

Hosted through a partnership with the Houston Food Bank, the supersites provide a place where Houstonians can go each week to pick up 32-pound family food packages and a week’s worth of student meals.

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With 6 weeks left in hurricane season, facilities crews stand ready

From the moment a severe storm is predicted to make landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast, Facilities, Maintenance, and Operations staff are among the first to spring into action.

Crews place sandbags around flood-prone campuses. Generators are checked and filled with fuel. Pump systems are inspected to make sure they are operational.

“As long as we don’t have a power outage in the area, the pumps should carry all the water that could cause more damage down the road,” said North Maintenance Plumbing Team Lead Kenneth Wesley, who oversees the dispatch of plumbers to campuses when faced with a severe weather threat.

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Three HISD schools honored for exceptional design

Collaborative learning spaces and abundant natural light are the hallmarks of a trio of Houston Independent School District high schools now being recognized for their innovative designs.

The new buildings for Madison High School and Sam Houston Math, Science, and Technology Center, as well as the addition and renovations to Northside High School, are three of just 48 projects across the state being recognized by the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) and Texas Association of School Boards (TASB).

“These awards are a testament to our focus on our students,” HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said. “We are proud to provide them with beautiful, functional spaces that foster learning and excitement. At the end of the day, it’s always about the kids.”

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Custodial services emphasize sanitization as students return

As an HISD plant operator at Field Elementary, Maria Santana has always worked hard to keep her school clean and safe. When students return to campus on Oct. 19, she’ll work even harder to do so.

As part of enhanced cleaning procedures, HISD custodians are required to target high touch surfaces every hour. This includes continuous sanitization of sink faucets, handrails, and desks using a host of cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting methods on an hourly, daily, weekly, and even emergency basis.

“We know how to clean,” Santana said. “But now it’s going to be about the details. Hitting those high touch areas like doorknobs.”

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HISD mentoring programs celebrate students’ return with car parade supply distribution

HISD’s mentoring programs, Ascending to Men Project (ATMP) and Resilient Outstanding Sisters Exemplifying Success (ROSES), welcomed back over 600 students and their families to the new school year through socially distanced car parades.

The events, held at Kashmere, Worthing, Wisdom, Waltrip, and Milby high schools, served as an opportunity to holistically support students and families in high-need areas by supplying items to help meet some of their basic needs. The distribution of school supplies, food, and toiletries was made possible through the strategic work of HISD partnerships in collaboration with community partners Procter & Gamble and United Airlines, who donated and assembled over 1600 toiletries packs.

“With this unprecedentED situation we find ourselves in due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that the need across our city has increased, but especially for our most underserved communities,” Candice Castillo, Executive Director of Equity and Outreach, said. “We are grateful for our community partners and their support to our students.”  

Under the umbrella of HISD’s Equity and Outreach Division, HISD’s Ascending to Men Project, and Resilient Outstanding Sisters Exemplifying Success mentorship initiatives connect students from historically underserved demographics in the district to community resources and mentors. In turn, these mentors serve as positive role models and advocates providing guidance and opportunities for educational, social, and professional growth.

As the programs continue to cultivate meaningful partnerships, the public can support HISD’s mentoring programs becoming mentors for either ATM project or ROSES.

HISD to hold phone bank as district prepares for return to in-person learning

The Houston Independent School District will hold two phone banks on Friday, Oct. 16, to address questions from parents and students as the district helps families prepare for the return to face-to-face-instruction.

The phone banks will give the public the opportunity to ask questions in English and Spanish by calling the HISD at H.O.M.E. hotline number at 713-556-(INFO) 4636. The phone bank in English will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and in Spanish from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

HISD staff members will take calls and answer questions on a variety of topics such as virtual and in-person instruction, testing and attendance, meals, COVID-19 precautions and procedures, resources for special populations, and more.

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