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Some Houston schools start chilly Wednesday without heat

The district announced after lunch that they would have early dismissal at three schools due to heating problems. Portable heaters were sent to two others.

HOUSTON — As the Houston area slowly begins to thaw out after the hard freeze, issues are beginning to pop up in people’s homes, businesses, and schools.

Houston ISD confirmed that some schools didn’t have heat today and broken pipes were also an issue. 

The district announced after lunch that they would have early dismissal at three schools due to heating problems. Henry Middle School was dismissed at 12:30 p.m. after the boiler continued to trip the electrical circuit, causing heating issues. There was also a busted pipe on the second floor this morning that forced school staff to move students to another part of campus, the district said.

Port Houston Elementary School and Love Elementary School will also dismiss students early.

Parents who have students who attend Bell Elementary School will have the option to pick up their children before the scheduled release. Temperatures were said to be 55 to 60 degrees inside of the school.

At another school, Cook Elementary, the district said an automated message went out to parents saying that the City of Houston would be working on planned maintenance on a water line that was going to affect plumbing at the school. They added that they provided hand sanitizers to students.

However, there was also a pipe that burst at the school as well, the district said.

Portable heaters sent to at least 2 other schools

“Our operations team is sending portable heaters to those schools now while crews work to fix the problems,” the district said Wednesday morning.

At Pershing, parents dropping off students for the day told KHOU 11 they learned about the heating issues from other parents or students in texting groups.

Despite the problems, HISD Superintendent Mike Miles said testing went on as scheduled at all schools.

“Does some of these things affect, distract some kids? Of course, but not enough to where we would have to close or postpone,” Miles said at a news conference.

While a Hard Freeze Warning was still in effect as classes resumed Wednesday morning, parents were urged to have their children layer up to start the day with temperatures starting in the teens and low 20s.

A wind chill made those temperatures “feel like” even much colder.

Miles faces backlash over comments on closing schools

Miles is taking heat over comments he made about canceling school on Tuesday because of weather concerns.

HISD and other local districts canceled classes because of the brutal cold and icy roads across Houston. City leaders urged Houstonians to stay home, if possible, because ice covered so many roadways and there were hundreds of crashes.

Even so, the state’s largest district was one of the last to make the call Monday to let parents, students and staff know there would be no school.

In a recording obtained by KHOU 11 News, Miles is heard saying he regrets the decision.

“We made the decision to close schools today. I’m not sure that was the best decision,” Miles said during a district advisory council meeting.

A member of the group Community Voices for Public Education was on the call and recorded the video.

“Despite the noise, despite the whining, despite people who are exaggerating saying we’re going to cost people’s lives, I got to ignore that and think about the kids and our core function,” Miles said. “That doesn’t mean we’ll go to school when there’s a hurricane.”

In the video, the superintendent says educators are essential workers and other essential workers, like first responders, did go to work during the freeze. 

“We hit that definition. We provide a public service, the absence of which could cause great harm to the community,” Miles said at the news conference Wednesday. “I’m not saying we should never close schools, I’m saying we should be slow to do that.”

Miles said drivers could have handled the icy roads by “driving slowly.”

He also pointed out that many HISD students are from low-income families and their parents can’t take off work. 

“When we close schools, parents don’t have a choice. They have to leave their children home or get other arrangements,” Miles explained. 

The superintendent said that means some students had to stay home alone and didn’t have hot meals that are normally provided by the schools. 

In the recording, the superintendent said this experience taught him a lesson. 

“I’m the one to blame. I’m not going to make the same mistake again,” Miles said.

In the recording, the superintendent said this experience taught him a lesson. 

“I’m the one to blame. I’m not going to make the same mistake again,” Miles said.

The recording quickly sparked backlash. Jackie Anderson with the Houston Federation of Teachers called Miles’ comments outrageous.

The fact this recording came out, I hope it’s a wakeup for people to know there is something wrong here with the leader of a district who has no compassion for students or teachers,” Anderson said. 

Houston Mayor John Whitmire also addressed the remarks during this morning’s city council meeting.

“I was obviously pleased HISD closed. I can’t believe it became a controversy overnight,” the mayor said.


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