Barbers Hill ISD set to open classes Aug. 17 amidst controversy and concern

GREG POOLE, BHISD Superintendent
GREG POOLE, BHISD Superintendent

CHAMBERS COUNTY – Parents in the Barbers Hill school district seem ready to send their children back to school, in spite of the threat of the COVID-19 virus rampant in the state.

Many parents are comfortable with the in-person option but the issue is causing tension between the superintendent and the Chambers County Public Health Department.

The department on Wednesday August 5th posted a letter saying it had “urged” local school boards to “take further action to protect their staff and students by delaying in-person instruction until September 8th at the earliest.”

Classes are scheduled to begin August 19 with parents having the option of starting kids online or at home, per TEA guidelines.

“With them giving the option to home school or send the kids to school, I think that eliminates a lot of the number of kids in school, which makes it easier for them to social distance,” said one parent.

The advisory applied to all school districts in Chambers County, but they have all chosen to open before the suggested date of September 8.

Barbers Hill teachers actually reported for training this week, on Monday August 10.

Other Chambers County districts include Anahuac, who will start on Wednesday August 13, and East Chambers starting on Monday August 17.

In response to the Health Department letter, Barbers Hill superintendent Greg Poole issued a strong response, saying Chambers County Health Authority Dr. W. Clay Brown is basing his suggestions on “hunches” and “offers no data to back up this claim,” referring to Brown’s assertion that planned measures likely will not be enough.

Poole also added the county’s letter amounts to “fear-mongering.”

Parents that were interviewed seemed to approve of the opening date set by the board and the superintendent.

“You can learn more in class than on the computer,” Lothridge added.

Other parents agreed.

“In-person learning is a lot better, it’s more disciplined,” said Kendra Eyth. “I feel like they get more out of it. At home, it’s difficult.”

“I think that it is good to be in-person,” said Kinsey Spiegelhauer.

Two days after their initial letter, the Chambers County Public Health Department issued another statement, which seemed to be an apology and reversal of their position.

It read, “Chambers County, Texas and Chambers County Public Health recognize that neither of their entities have jurisdiction over when schools begin in-person instruction. Further, they acknowledge the fact that decisions regarding this matter are solely left up to each school district based on state level guidance.

Chambers County supports each District’s reopening plan and respects their jurisdiction and judgment in reopening.”