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Families & the Community Audio

A Storm, Power Outages, and a Pandemic: Texas Educators and Families Describe a School Year Upended

February 19, 2021 2 min read
Families & the Community Audio

A Storm, Power Outages, and a Pandemic: Texas Educators and Families Describe a School Year Upended

February 19, 2021 2 min read

A dangerous winter storm battered the South this week, leading to a massive infrastructure failure across the state of Texas. Millions were left without heat or water for days on end.

That’s on top of the deadly pandemic that’s been raging for the last year.

For students, educators, and families in the Lone Star State, the weather-related disruptions were a harsh reminder of just how tenuous any sort of return-to-normal could be. The state is one of a handful requiring all school districts to offer in-person classes, and thousands of K-12 students there had recently returned after months of remote learning.

When the storm hit, many students found themselves at home once again—though this time in dire conditions. It’s unclear how quickly some schools will reopen, given that many suffered damage. And millions of Texans are still under boil-water advisories.

EdWeek spoke with several families and educators about living through a year of pandemic schooling and the devastation of the storm. The following audio clips were edited for length and clarity.

‘And then the blackout, it just like set everyone back’

8th grade student, Houston

Jack Fitzgerald, 14, an 8th grader at Hogg Middle School in Houston, Texas, plays Rocket League at home this week when school was cancelled because of icy weather and widespread power outages. Jack's family had to stay with friends briefly when their home lost power and indoor temperatures plunged.

Jack Fitzgerald, 14, started the school year virtually, then went back to the school building in January. But now he’s stuck at home again, with schools closed. He and his family lost power briefly and had to go to a friend’s house to warm up.


‘I’m extremely worried ... especially for my kids’

1st grade teacher, Arlington

Valerie Malone, left, and fellow first-grade teacher Marissa Uplegger stand in a classroom in Arlington Independent school district.

Valerie Malone, a 1st grade teacher in the Arlington Independent school district, thought a lot about her school and her students this past week. The elementary campus where she teaches sustained water damage during the storm, and she hasn’t been able to make contact with most of her class.


‘It’s familiar and foreign at the same time’

Mother of two, Houston

Chrishelle Palay is mom to two girls, ages 5 and 9, whose schools shut down during the winter storm.

Chrishelle Palay is the executive director of the Houston Organizing Movement for Equity, a disaster relief coalition formed in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. She’s also a mom to two girls, ages 5 and 9, whose schools shut down during the winter storm—further disrupting a year that’s been upended by the pandemic. Palay and her daughters spent part of this week at a cousin’s house, after losing power at their home.


‘We’re truly all in this together’

Athletic coordinator and football coach, Houston

Shone Evans is the head football coach and athletic coordinator at La Marque High School.

In the Texas City Independent school district, a group of staff members mobilized to deliver meals to senior citizens stuck without power. Shone Evans, the head football coach and athletic coordinator at La Marque High School, was one of the volunteers.

Reporting: Catherine Gewertz and Sarah Schwartz
Design/Audio Editing: Emma Patti Harris
Project Editor: Liana Loewus

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