UPDATE: August 14, 2020, 9 p.m.
A Harris County District Court judge tonight granted Cy-Fair AFT a temporary restraining order that stated teachers do not have to enter Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District’s school buildings, as the district had required, before Sept. 7.
“This is a win for safety, health, and common sense. It was unsafe to require teachers to come to school campuses for professional development and new teacher orientation–programs that can take place virtually,” said Nikki Cowart, president of the Cy-Fair AFT.
A follow-up hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 28.
For Immediate Release
Friday, August 14, 2020
Contact: Nikki Cowart
Cypress-Fairbanks AFT Seeks Injunction to Halt Requirement For School Employees to Return to School Buildings
HOUSTON—The Cy-Fair AFT filed a lawsuit today in Harris County District Court seeking an injunction to halt the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District’s requirement that teachers and school employees return to their schools for professional development and new teacher orientation starting Aug. 14.
“Our school district has ignored our pleas to reduce the number of school personnel required to be in school buildings because of a surging COVID-19 infection rate in the Houston area. What the district is doing could further spread the virus and contaminate our schools; we don’t want to be a part of that problem. Minimizing the number of employees at schools and worksites allows our community to slow the spread and get the virus under control,” said Cy-Fair AFT President Nikki Cowart. “As president of Cy-Fair AFT and the parent of two Cy-Fair students, I know that is not the way to start the new school year.”
The district is asking all school employees to show up at their schools starting Aug. 14 for professional development training and new teacher orientation.
“We will not let ourselves become part of the reason why our students cannot return. The district is conducting professional development and new teacher orientation in a manner that further illustrates it is not modifying protocols enough to meet the health and safety requirements that would properly mitigate the spread on school campuses,” Cowart said.
“We have to get the virus under control, not bring people to campuses unnecessarily and potentially increase the spread. Everything that the district wants to do with professional development and orientation can be done virtually,” she said.
The Cy-Fair school district, just outside of Houston, has 91 campuses with 116,000 students and 7,800 teachers and other school employees. School starts Sept. 8 and families had to choose all-remote or all in-person learning. A majority of parents selected to keep their children home and do schooling online. After the first grading period, families can make changes to their decision.
Educators want to return to school, Cowart said, but they agree with Harris County Public Health Director Umair Shah, who said this week that with transmission levels as high as they are in Harris County, “it is simply not safe to do so at this time.”
Texas AFT President Zeph Capo said, “This district’s dangerous dictate for educators to return to schools is another needless consequence of Gov. Greg Abbott’s complete disregard for getting COVID-19 under control in Texas.”
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said, “This is another reckless example of ignoring science, safety and basic humanity in the zeal to pretend there is no pandemic affecting the Texas and the United States. Making educators enter Cy-Fair school buildings right now, given the surge in COVID-19 cases in Harris County and without following safety protocols, will jeopardize their health and safety and that of their families and the children they serve. It’s just wrong. Cy-Fair should spend the time planning for a way to reopen school safely, not dangerously.”