A day before Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017, Tiffany
Irving and her son Grant eagerly delivered school supplies to his kindergarten
classroom at Mitchell Elementary, just south of Hobby Airport.
Little did they know then that Grant’s supplies — along with
the rest of his building and three other elementary schools across the district
— would be destroyed in the coming days as the storm dumped unprecedented
amounts of rain on the city.
Unfortunately, the damage wasn’t limited to the school. The Irving’s
home just around the corner from the school also flooded.
Kolter Elementary School Principal Julianne Dickinson began
to feel the weight of Monday morning before the sun went down the day before.
For Dickinson, Monday was different for a few reasons — the
start of in-person instruction, the return of students to classrooms after eight
months, and the required use of masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the most special reason was that it was her students’
first day in their newly constructed school.
you follow Eliot Elementary School Plant Operator Irma Martinez along on her
new cleaning route, you’ll see her clean and disinfect the school from
wall-to-wall — figuratively and literally.
part of her new duties, Martinez is required to clean and sanitize restrooms
and high touch surfaces every hour. It includes walls, door handles, light
switches, faucets, cafeteria tables, and anything else young students may touch
that could harbor viruses.
“I try to help the students as fast as I can,” Martinez said. “That’s why I don’t work by myself. I work with my team.”
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
overwhelmed at their first neighborhood supersite in southeast
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.
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
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.
how to clean,” Santana said. “But now it’s going to be about the details.
Hitting those high touch areas like doorknobs.”
Nutrition Services Chef Trainer Brittany Jones is used to teaching others how
to prepare tasty, nutritious meals. Now she’ll get to share her expertise with
others around the state thanks to a virtual learning seminar.
Jones recently visited Texas A&M University where she filmed culinary demonstrations to be included in virtual lessons for the Learn, Grow, Eat, and Go program offered by Texas AgriLife Extension’s Junior Master Gardener program.
Learn, Grow, Eat, and Go curriculum is used in select HISD elementary science classes to teach students about gardening, nutrition, and physical activity to promote long-term health. Nutrition Services hopes to share the new virtual lessons, which complement the in-person curriculum, all HISD elementary teachers via science curriculum coordinators.
When walking into Jennifer Heemer’s fifth grade classroom at
Kolter Elementary School, it’s hard not to get excited about learning.
The walls are adorned with colorful decorations, including a
poster reminding her students to “think outside the box” and class photos from
her 21 years of teaching. Natural light from a wall of large windows fills the
room and illuminates the two rows of perfectly-arranged desks.
A group of Windswept Gardens Apartments residents made their way
through the complex’s tree-lined central courtyard, which sits just a few
hundred yards from the speeding cars and unending traffic of the Southwest
Clad in face masks and carefully keeping their distance from each
other, the families gathered around a blue tent where HISD’s Nutrition Services
staff were handing out student summer meals in the afternoon sun.
The district has long offered a free summer meal program for
students throughout the greater Houston community. In previous years, children
would come to local schools to eat. But the COVID-19 pandemic changed the game,
prompting Nutrition Services to look for innovative and safe ways to feed kids
without a cafeteria.