Fort Worth ISD trustees reconsider extending online learning; mayor criticizes board president

Teachers protested outside Fort Worth ISD Tuesday ahead of a vote to possibly extend online learning to the end of October. They want that extension, fearing for their health.

Just last week, the board voted 5 to 4 to give parents the option of starting in-person learning on Oct. 5. Now, members are reconsidering.

More than 200 people signed up for public comment during a Tuesday meeting. They were each given one minute to address the board.

Many parents and teachers are frustrated with the back and forth. They want the board to make a decision and move forward.

“I'm just hoping that they take us into consideration like my sign says,” said teacher Amy Albarran. “Take health into consideration.”

“We cannot go face to face unless it's absolutely safe for our teachers for our students,” said protester Heather Faaborg. “If it needs a revote, it needs a revote.”

Inside the meeting, dozens of parents and teachers each got one minute to address the board virtually.

A week ago on Sept. 15, the board voted in favor of offering in-person learning for the some 52% of parents who opted for the option beginning on Oct. 5.

At that meeting, Tarrant County Health Director Dr. Vinny Taneja told the board he was still evaluating the latest virus trends saying he would like to know more before bringing teachers and students on campus. But he added he would personally not send his children back for in-person learning until there is a vaccine.

 The board is now considering another vote which would extend virtual-only instruction through Oct. 30 while gradually increasing and staggering in-person learning on campuses.

Parents and teachers expressed their frustration with the back-and-forth during the more than three hours of public comment.

A group of parents and teachers in support of returning to in-person learning on Oct. 5 emailed a signed petition to every school board member on Tuesday. The vote could happen overnight.

Mayor Betsy Price wants the board to stick with the original plan. She held a discussion on Facebook with doctors from Cook Children’s Health Care System.

“I have strong feelings about that. I believe the kids need to be in school. It must be done safely for students and teachers. Adults need to be adults and make a decision that’s good for our kids,” she said.

“When kids go back to school, somebody is going to get COVID and we can’t shut everything down the first time it happens,” said Dr. Mark Mazade, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Cook Children’s.

“The masks are probably going to be huge and instrumental in ending the pandemic over time,” added Dr. Mary Whitworth, another pediatric infectious disease specialist at Cook Children’s.

During the discussion, Mayor Price also called out school board president Jacinto Ramos Jr. for attending the Cowboys game with his son after voting against in-person learning.