Rarely has a new school year been more fraught with frustration and confusion. Normally at this time of year, parents are maneuvering through store aisles trying to snag the last BOGO deal on No. 2 pencils and children are wrangling for the latest thing in sneakers and backpacks.

But in 2020, we have families divided between debating whether it’s worth the health risk to send their children back to classrooms if schools reopen for in-class learning and which parent will have to quit a job to home school if they don’t.

It certainly doesn’t help when leaders at every level seem to be vying for the authority to make the all-important call — and stepping all over and around each other in the process.

The president at one point gave himself the authority to do it on a national level, even threatening to withhold funding from schools that don’t open fully — as in all in-class from the start — and on time. Medical authorities, rightfully, are weighing in, as are governors and local elected leaders. Debates are raging on social media.

All the while, our children are in limbo, waiting to know what their new school year will look like.

Some no doubt welcome the delay and disruption. But most probably are hoping for a return to some semblance of normalcy, especially since the 2019-2020 school year was cut short so abruptly. Not many people are debating that children belong in school for all of the educational, social and psychological benefits the setting offers. It’s just a matter of getting them there safely.

As if to drive home the point about mixed messages in regard to school reopening, a brouhaha was broiling in the Clear Creek Independent School District on Tuesday. The district’s 40,000 or so students are divided among the northern reaches of Galveston County and southern Harris County, with about 25 of its 45 campuses in Harris County.

The geographical divide normally isn’t an issue, but it became one last week when Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued a health order prohibiting schools from opening before Sept. 8.

The problem? Galveston County is not under a similar order.

Clear Creek’s reopening plan had been to host all students online starting Aug. 24, and then all in-person learning would return by Sept. 8. But pre-kindergartners, kindergartners, sixth graders, ninth graders and special education students were set to return to in-person classes Aug. 31 — directly in conflict with Hidalgo’s order.

Clear Creek officials announced Wednesday they would go ahead with their original reopening plans, despite the conflict. They argued they are following guidance by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton who says school officials have ultimate authority about school openings and closings.

We’re in the district’s corner on this. For all of the posturing around school reopening on all levels, who knows what’s best for the children and families they serve better than local school officials assessing the situation with local health and other local leaders? Keyword: local.

The coronavirus pandemic is an all-hands-on-deck crisis that touches every aspect of society. But not all hands need to be on every deck all the time. Sometimes, the best touch is a local touch.

• Margaret Battistelli Gardner

Margaret Battistelli Gardner: 409.683.5227; Margaret.Gardner@galvnews.com

Deputy Managing Editor

Margaret joined The Daily New in December 2019, bringing more than 20 years of editorial experience to the team. A Philadelphia native, she lives in Galveston County with her husband, Steve, and their dog Nanook.

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(7) comments

Robert Braeking

Point the first: Lena Hidalgo has no authority to stop schools from reopening.

Point the second: Children are the least vulnerable to the covid and, if infected, recover quickly with mild to no symptoms.

Point the third: It would behoove the schools to re-open to avoid the realization of home-schooling parents to the quality of education and level of indoctrination that their children are receiving in public school.

Point the fourth: Failure to open schools on time will open the floodgates to voucher programs for those parents opting to seek alternatives to public schools.

Bailey Jones

It seems obvious that this should be a local decision.

Ted Gillis

I have a question. Who administers the voucher program, the state or the local ISD’s?

Robert Braeking

Ted, Who supplies the money? Both state and local.

Carlos Ponce

Texas has no school voucher program. In 2017 Larry Taylor proposed SB3, "AN ACT relating to the establishment of an education savings account program and a tax credit scholarship and educational expense assistance program."

See text at


Robert Braeking

"Texas has no school voucher program" Understood but not impossible to overcome. It may take a while to enact but the legislature meets every 2 years.

Ted Gillis

Carlos answered my question. Thanks

Friend or foe, he is a great resource for this forum.

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