Humble ISD Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Fagen knew this first week of the school year would be different from the first week of any previous school year ever.
“The last time we were all together was March 6, and that was a long time ago. I knew everybody — students, their parents, staff — would be adjusting to a new rhythm of learning,” Fagen said.
Every road, however, has a few bumps and Humble ISD got off to a bumpy start when along came Hurricane Laura.
“Everybody is in searching for that sense of normalcy, but the hurricane disrupted our first week when students who chose to, could return to campus to be with their friends and teachers,” Fagen said. “This second week has been so much better. Students got to attend every day.”
In a far-ranging conversation with The Tribune about her impression of the first week of school, Fagen described the feeling on Humble ISD’s campuses as exciting, “ … the students and staff are so happy to be together again. They were posting all kinds of positive comments on social media.”
Students are supportive of wearing masks and social distancing even though they do not really prefer it, Fagen said, but they have done a great job following the rules and implementing social distancing.
Parents and guardians were given three “back to school” options in June — in person, online or a combination of the two.
Here are the statistics: Total number of students during the first week, 45,225. Online students totaled 14,388. In person students were 26,660. Online plus UIL on campus were 4,168.
The students who chose to return to campus are attending on what is termed an “A/B” schedule. Based on the first letter of their last name, middle and high school students are on campus two days a week plus an alternate Friday and online the remaining two days and alternate Friday. Under this system, and because not all students have chosen to return to their campus, fewer than half the total number of students are on campus on any given day.
This method allows Humble’s schools to maintain social distancing and avoid crowded classrooms, lunchrooms, and corridors.
Elementary students are on campus every day.
“It’s working out well,” said Fagen. “Our principals did a great job evaluating their campuses with social distancing in mind. With the help of the building leaders and the operations department, they went through their areas, put stickers on seats and delivered Plexiglas partitions so we can have a successful lunch, for example. Even though it is warm outside, some principals have allowed students who chose to, to eat outside. Middle schools put plastic barriers on their lunch tables.”
The most common issue brought up by parents is for their kids to return to campus every day, according to Fagen.
“We hear that a lot,” she says. “We’re monitoring the health metrics and will continue ‘alternating’ students until the metrics are appropriate. That’s when we will move to ‘every day/everybody — who wants to be.’”
Humble ISD athletes enjoyed their first week of sports as well, Fagen said. The athletes are happy to be back with their friends and excited that the UIL and Humble ISD are committed to allowing them to compete.
The district still plans a break Oct. 6-9.
“I am very proud of our students, parents and staff,” Fagen said, “and I appreciate the flexibility and the partnership that they’ve demonstrated as we adjust to this new normal. It has created a lot of extra work and I am so grateful to everyone for working together and supporting each other.
“I am especially proud of our students,” she added. “They’ve had to make sacrifices, we know that. I appreciate how they are handling themselves and adjusting to how things have to be.”