Bay Area Edition | April 2021

BAY AREA EDITION

VOLUME 3, ISSUE 9  APRIL 23MAY 20, 2021

ONLINE AT

Clear Creek ISD changing public education in response to COVID19

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on local school districts’ failure rates. Districts have seen the rate of students failing one or more classes increase due to remote learning and teachers having to split their attention between in-person and remote instruction. Rising F ailure rates

curve for me as well.” Now, after months of experience, Swann and her remaining 20 or so online students are in a “groove.” Stu- dents know how to use technology to virtually raise their hands; adjust their microphones, cameras and audio; and upload assignments online, Swann said. However, it is not so easy for other teachers in the district, especially those who teach online and in-person classes simultaneously through a hybrid model. Students are struggling as well; CONTINUED ON 18

BY JAKE MAGEE

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Keli Swann, a third-grade teacher at Hyde Elementary School, has been teaching students exclusively online. At rst, it was a challenge. Students had to learn not only the curriculum, but also how to learn virtually through Clear Connections, the remote learning program CCISD launched shortly after the pandemic began, Swann said. “Many kids use computers to play, and they weren’t used to using it for work,” she said. “It was a huge learning

Clear Creek ISD

Friendswood ISD

Pearland ISD

Intermediate and high school

High school seniors

Secondary

2019-20

March 2020

2019-20

13.6%

10.7%

8%

Spring 2021

March 2021

Fall 2020

18.2%

12.2%

11%

Percent change +33.8%

Percent change +14.02%

Percent change +37.5%

SOURCES: PEARLAND, FRIENDSWOOD AND CLEAR CREEK ISDSCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

Local ocials take aimat increase in violent crime

Murders in 2019 A national trend Violent crime, including murders, is up in Harris County, but data from large U.S. cities shows similar increases. Murders in 2020 (preliminary)

BY SHAWN ARRAJJ

A rise in violent crime in Harris County has local ocials urgently seeking solutions to combat the trend. However, a debate over the origins of the increase—which has resulted in a 43%year-to-date increase inmurder charges and a 33% increase in aggravated assault charges—has sparked questions of what is to blame and what should be done. Some law enforcement and elected ocials have attributed the rise inmurders to amix of the COVID-19 pandemic and bail bond practices in the county. At the same time, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has made xing what he called a “broken” bail bond system an emer- gency item during the 87th Texas Legislature, citing the increasing crime rates. CONTINUED ON 20

+41.35%

+55.35%

+24.81%

+24.14%

+27.84%

Chicago

Dallas

Los Angeles

City of Houston

Harris County (unincorporated)

SOURCES: HARRIS COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE, CITY OF HOUSTON, DALLAS POLICE DEPARTMENT, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENTCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

BayArea roads amongmost congested in Texas

IMPACTS

TRANSPORTATION

PUBLIC SAFETY

BUSINESS

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BAY AREA EDITION • APRIL 2021

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THIS ISSUE

ABOUT US

Owners John and Jennifer Garrett launched the rst edition of Community Impact Newspaper in 2005 with three full-time employees covering Round Rock and Pugerville, Texas. We have expanded our operations to include hundreds of employees, our own printing operation and over 30 hyperlocal editions across three states. Our circulation is over 2 million residential mailboxes, and it grows each month with new residents and developments.

HIGHLIGHTS FROMTHISMONTH

FROMPAPAR: As parents, the education our children receive is constantly on our minds, even more so during these historic times. This month we look at how Clear Creek ISD and area school districts have managed through COVID-19, virtual learning and STAAR testing this year. Papar Faircloth, GENERALMANAGER

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FROM JAKE: This month, my wife, Montaya, and I closed on our rst house, and it’s in the Clear Lake area. After nearly three years living in the Inner Loop, we’re both excited to call the Bay Area our ocial home, and I’m happy to say I now live in the community I report on each month. See you around! Jake Magee, EDITOR

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CORRECTION: Volume 3, Issue 8 Local voter guide, Page 15 Kevin Oditt was mistakenly left o the sample ballot for Clear Creek ISD At- Large Position A. Voting locations for local elections vary by governing body. Check local municipalities and school districts for details on voting locations by precinct.

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IMPACTS

Businesses that have recently opened or are coming soon, relocating or expanding

vard and Gatebrook Drive, Houston. The grocery store will be an anchor for other developments in the area. H-E-B has over 340 locations throughout Texas and northeast Mexico. 713-425-1822. www.heb.com 8 Senior living facility Reunion Court of Clear Lake plans to open in the summer at 14101 Bay Pointe Court, Houston. Reunion Court will provide assisted living and memory care services. The facility al- lows for services to increase as residents’ needs grow. Additionally, the facility provides chef-prepared meals, on- and off-site activities, beauty and barber shop services, and more. Residences range from 350-square-foot studios to 560-square-foot one-bedroom residenc- es. Reunion Court was originally expected to open in 2020, but COVID-19 delayed plans, a representative for the company said. 281-667-0851. www.reunioncourtclearlake.com 9 Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine at Clear Lake is set to open in May at 18300 Houston Methodist Drive, Houston. The facility will include physical therapy, an outdoor sports complex, an aquatic center, orthopedic physicians, surgeons and office spaces. Houston Methodist Clear Lake Hospi- tal in Nassau Bay broke ground on the six-story, 150,000-square-foot facility in December 2019. 281-333-5503. www.houstonmethodist.org 10 USA Ninja Challenge will open with classes at 309 Ibis St., Webster, on May 1. The business allows children ages 4-17 to play and train in a gym full of swinging ropes, monkey bars, climbing walls, rope walls and other equipment designed to make participants feel like a ninja. The business offers classes, camps and par- ties. 346-336-4652. www.ninjawebster.com 11 The Burger Joint is still working to open a location near the Baybrook Mall, but a timeline has not been established. When announced last year, The Burger Joint was expected to open in fall 2020. A representative said the restaurant will open sometime this year at 1350 W. Bay Area Blvd., Friendswood. The Burger Joint, which has two Inner Loop loca- tions, sells burgers, hot dogs, shakes, alcoholic beverages and more.

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SPENCER HWY.

VISTA RD.

ARMAND BAYOU NATURE CENTER

BAY POINTE CT.

8

45

SEABROOK

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CLEAR LAKE

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2351

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HOUSTON METHODIST DR.

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GALVESTON BAY

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TEXAS AVE.

NASSAU BAY

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A Y D

IBIS ST.

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WEBSTER

518

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LEAGUE CITY

MAP NOT TO SCALE TM; © 2021 COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER CO. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. N

NOWOPEN 1 Texas Flex Fitness had its grand opening March 6 at 2100 E. NASA Parkway, Seabrook. The family-owned and -oper- ated gym is 5,500 square feet and allows for 24/7 access. The business provides brand new equipment, including strength and cardio equipment, personal training, a club for children, and more. 281-967-8127. www.texasflexfitness.com 2 Fitness business Spenga opened at the turn of the new year at 1507 Bay Area Blvd., Ste. 2B, Webster. Spenga promotes three components of fitness—cardio, strength and flexibility—through a combi- nation of spin, strength and yoga in single 60-minute workouts. 281-962-8838. www.spenga.com

3 On Feb. 3, Eco Restoration & Cleaning Services had its official grand opening at 1707 S. Hwy. 3, League City. The business performs commercial and residential dis- infection and cleans carpets, upholstery, tile and grout. The business also does restoration. 832-783-0022. www.erc-services.com 4 Cloud Wine & Spirits opened in early April at 3040 S. Gulf Freeway, Ste. G, League City. The store offers wine classes and wine tastings along with a unique selection of craft beer, wine and liquor. 832-684-9811. www.facebook.com/ cloudwineandspirits COMING SOON 5 Anytime Fitness will open late May at

1062 FM 646, Ste. C, League City. Every member gets a free “Get Started Plan” upon joining, and the gym offers personal training and tools to track fitness. The business offers 24/7 access to more than 6 Fajita Pete’s will open a Clear Lake location in June at 16809 El Camino Real, Ste. A, Houston. Fajita Pete’s, which first opened in 2008, offers and delivers handmade fajitas and other Mexican cui- sine. The business has several locations across Houston alone and opened a League City location in December 2019. www.fajitapetes.com 4,700 locations worldwide. www.anytimefitness.com 7 H-E-B is opening this coming winter at the intersection of El Dorado Boule-

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

COMPILED BY JAKE MAGEE

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Fajita Pete’s

Reunion Court of Clear Lake

COURTESY FAJITA PETE’S

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Royalty Meat Co.

COURTESY ROYALTY MEAT CO.

IN THE NEWS 15 As of March 22, workers had in- stalled synthetic grass at the Texas Ave- nue Park Splash Pad at 1711 N. Texas Ave., Webster, to replace the rubber surface that would get hot in the sun. 281-332-1826. www.cityofwebster.com CLOSINGS 16 Fry’s Electronics , which had a FEATURED IMPACT NOWOPEN Royalty Meat Co. had its grand opening April 5 at 951 E. FM 646, Ste. B-1, League City. The business provides Texas-raised meat and Texas-made products through its brick-and-mortar retail shop, local delivery and online shipping nationwide, according to its website. The business also provides corporate

gifts and wholesale meat accounts. 832-632-2748. www.royaltymeatcompay.com

USA Ninja Challenge

Texas Avenue Splash Pad

96

COURTESY USA NINJA CHALLENGE

COURTESY CITY OF WEBSTER

646

www.burgerjointhtx.com 12 The Water Tree plans to open a 1,000-square-foot location at South Shore Center, 3020 Marina Bay Drive, League City. A timeline has not been established. The Water Tree sells alkaline water, which the business claims is healthier than standard water. The Hous- ton-based business also sells related products, including showerheads and water bottles. 713-988-8833.

ing 3915 Spencer Highway, Pasadena. Ac- cording to its website, CenterWell Senior Primary Care offers seniors a primary care physician who looks at the big picture of a patient’s health, develops personalized health care plans and coordinates the patient’s journey through the health care system. 713-265-6955. www.centerwellprimarycare.com ANNIVERSARIES 14 Pop Top Burgers , 3122 FM 528, Ste. D, Webster, celebrated its one-year an- niversary near the beginning of the year. The family-owned eatery serves burgers, cheesesteaks, burritos, hot dogs and more. 832-632-2211. www.poptopburger.com

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location at 21300 Gulf Freeway, Webster, has closed. Fry’s attributed the decision to changes in the retail industry as well as challenges resulting from the corona- virus pandemic. The closing comes a few months before the company’s 36th anniversary. www.frys.com

www.thewatertree.com NAME CHANGES

13 Partners in Primary Care on April 5 changed its name to CenterWell Senior Primary Care . The business has locations across the Greater Houston area, includ-

THIS INFORMATION WAS ACCURATE AS OF APRIL 15. FOLLOW COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM FOR THE LATEST BUSINESS AND RESTAURANT NEWS UPDATES.

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BAY AREA EDITION • APRIL 2021

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

TRANSPORTATIONUPDATES BayArea roads

COMPILED BY JAKE MAGEE

ONGOING PROJECT

CONDITIONS VARYING

ranked amongmost congested in Texas According to December data from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, several Bay Area roads rank among the most congested in Texas, and many are worsening. Hwy. 146 fromRed Blu Road to League City Parkway ranked as the 117th most-congested road in Texas in 2019. According to preliminary 2020 data, it is now No. 100. I-45 between NASA Parkway and FM 517 ranked at No. 365 in 2019 and is now No. 154. Other Bay Area roads near the top 500 most-congested roads include parts of Bay Area Boulevard, League City Parkway and NASA Parkway. The TTI uses speed data and trac volume information to calculate the total delay hours on each road. The report also includes a “cost of con- gestion” for each road, which looks at the loss of productivity and fuel as drivers wait in trac, Senior Research Engineer Tim Lomax said. For instance, the annual hours of delay total 680,826 for Hwy. 146 and 726,803 for I-45. The annual conges- tion cost is $14.8 million for Hwy. 146 and $15 million for I-45. Several roads that ranked among the most congested in the Bay Area are undergoing improvements. Hwy. 146 is being widened, and I-45 has been under a widening project for years. Lomax said there has been a noted decrease in trac patterns due to the pandemic. However, it is too early to tell if those changes will remain. “I tend to think we’re going to go back to something closer to the old normal,” he said.

45

According to Texas A&M data, some Bay Area roads are among the most congested in the state, and some are worsening.

LEAGUE CITY PKWY

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League City Parkway and Brittany Lakes Drive improvements The east- and westbound lanes of League City Parkway between Hobbs Road and Landing Boulevard are under construction as workers build improve- ments to the intersection of the road with Brittany Lakes Drive. This project will add an additional left turn bay for both approaches on League City Park- way and a trac signal. Timeline: March-October Cost: $1.9 million Funding source: city of League City

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UPCOMING PROJECT

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BUTLER RD.

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2019 congestion cost

2020 preliminary rank

Roadway

2018 rank 2019 rank

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SEDONA DR.

Turner Street and Butler Road reconstruction

Hwy. 146 from Red Blu Road to League City Parkway I-45 from NASA Parkway to FM 517 Bay Area Boulevard from I-45 to Red Blu Road League City Parkway from I-45 to Hwy. 146 NASA Parkway from I-45 to Space Center Boulevard

No. 96

No. 117

$14.8M No. 100

1

ALL INFORMATION ON THIS PAGE WAS UPDATED AS OF APRIL 13. NEWS OR QUESTIONS ABOUT THESE OR OTHER LOCAL TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS? EMAIL US AT BAYNEWSCOMMUNITYIMPACT.COM. from Turner Street to Sedona Drive will be reconstructed to curb and gutter concrete roads. In February, the city nished reconstructing nearby sections of both roads. Timeline: summer 2022-summer 2023 Cost: $6.1 million Funding source: city of League City About 1,800 feet of the existing two- lane asphalt Turner Street from Hobbs Road to Butler Road and 4,300 feet of the existing asphalt Butler Road

No. 509

No. 365

$15M No. 154

2

No. 359

No. 437

$11.7M No. 297

3

No. 454

No. 505

$7.8M No. 501

4

No. 586

No. 491

$5.6M No. 520

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SOURCE: TEXAS A&M TRANSPORTATION INSTITUTECOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

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BAY AREA EDITION • APRIL 2021

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

PUBLIC SAFETY Mayor promotes Troy Finner to fill sudden police chief vacancy

The Finner file

“When we talk in terms of trust and building relationships ... it’s just as important in the criminal justice arena, and it’s time everybody takes some responsibility,” Finner said. “It’s time to stop throwing stones and sit down with each other.” Addressing recommendations from the Mayor’s Police Reform Task Force, which the city has fallen behind in implementing under the task force’s suggested timeline, Finner said he and Turner are committed to putting most of the proposals in place. “We agreed to roll them out, and the mayor is going to call us and order us to roll them out, so we should be seeing something really, really soon here,” Finner said. When Finner’s appointment was made, Brown said she hoped it repre- sented a change in relations between HPD and advocacy groups. “We’re alongside them. We’re pounding pavement to try to ensure that justice is certain, people are safe and that our community is not being terrorized by the people who are supposedly there to help them,” she said. Hometown: Houston Former position: executive assistant chief, Houston Police Department Experience: 31 years in the Houston Police Department Chief’s duties: • Oversees 6,400 employees, including 5,300 classified persons (patrol officers, investigators, etc.), 100 cadets and 1,000 civilians (support staff) • Manages $900 million budget SOURCE: CITY OF HOUSTON/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

BY EMMA WHALEN

He said he appreciated Turner looking within the department for Acevedo’s replacement and echoed Turner’s remarks. “If you are Caucasian, Black, whatever you are, you have your own life experiences. People are different, and I don’t care if it’s their politics or what, you give validation to a person’s experiences,” Finner said. The department shakeup comes alongside a rise in the city’s homicide rate, surpassing 400 murders in 2020. Although Turner said Acevedo’s announcement was a surprise, he said with two years left in his final term, he knew there was a possibility Acevedo would leave. “In this business, I have hired people from other cities, and I’m sure it was a surprise to those mayors,” Turner said. “It happens all the time, and what I will say to people is that everybody is here for a particular season, and no one is here forever.” At a farewell press conference March 16, Acevedo said he chose to move to Miami because Mayor Fran- cis Suarez personally recruited him and because it is where his family first arrived from Cuba. Acevedo also downplayed his polit- ical future, saying he has no intention of running for office in Texas and that he considers his views ill suited for both Democrats and Republicans. He added he turned down a position in President Joe Biden’s administration and considered running for L.A. County sheriff but opted to continue with what he knows best.

Troy Finner, executive assistant chief of the Houston Police Depart- ment, is the city’s new chief of police. “My goal was to find someone who was fully capable of leading this department from day one who knows the city, its neighborhoods and its people and someone who would work every single day to gain and maintain the trust of our diverse community,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. The appointment, announced March 18, came days after news of former Chief Art Acevedo’s departure was made public, raising concerns among some criminal justice reform advocates such as Houston Justice organizer Karla Brown. “When you think about the magnitude of this decision, it would be best to at least give an opportunity for the community to provide input,” Brown said. Brown added, however, that the group supports the choice. “Just before the winter storm, he was riding around checking on homes ... and he was out canvassing the homeless encampments,” she said. “I had never seen anyone at his level out there working and making sure people got the resources they need.” Fresh start Finner has served in the Houston Police Department since 1990, working in several divisions and ultimately overseeing field support operations and 15 patrol divisions.

Troy Finner

“I love cops; I love being a cop, and I love being on patrol,” he said. Different approach Acevedo also used his farewell address to question bail reform efforts in Harris County, which he attributed to rising homicide rates. In 2017, Harris County began requiring courts to release most misdemeanor defen- dants prior to trial. Those include drug possession, trespassing, theft and driving while intoxicated. “No matter how good the leadership cadre is, you cannot have a criminal justice system that absolutely allows violent criminals to go in one door and out the other,” Acevedo said. A court-ordered independent study, however, found the amount of misdemeanor defendants who commit felonies within a year of getting released, about 13%, remained stable in the two years leading up to the county’s bail reform efforts and the two years following. The study has been issued in two installments so far, and further analysis is ongoing. Finner’s tone differed when speak- ing about the justice system.

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BAY AREA EDITION • APRIL 2021

A SHOT OF HOPE

LEARN THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE VACCINE Vaccination has been a trusted and effective treatment of viruses for over 200 years. The COVID-19 vaccine is the proven way to stop the spread of the disease. When your turn comes, having the vaccine will protect you, your loved ones and your community. To understand the facts about the vaccine, visit memorialhermann.org/shot-of-hope

Advancing health. Personalizing care.

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

EDUCATION Ross Elementary School’s newdesign approved

“IT’S GOING TOBE A COMPLETE ...MAKEOVEROF THE CURRENT CAMPUS AS YOU SEE IT TODAY.” ANGEL RIVERA, HUCKABEE ARCHITECTURE FIRM

BY JAKE MAGEE

administrative wing closer to the road. The school is set back from the road, and when visitors arrive at the school, they do not always know where to go to enter the school, Rivera said. One of the gyms near FM 518 will be converted to a library; another gym will remain as is. Architects plan to add a collaborative space near the library and gym with natural light. The library will have a maker space and green room, Rivera said. The kitchen will remain in the same spot, but it will move into the dining room by 10 feet to make room for a new serving line. New kitchen equipment will be installed as well, Rivera said. Collaborative spaces will be created in the middle of the suites that make up several classrooms. Folding partitions for the spaces will be installed so teachers and students can make open and closed-o areas, Rivera said. In total, the upgrades will cost $20.65 million, he said.

CLEAR CREEK ISD With unani- mous board approval March 22, Clear Creek ISD will soon move forward with plans to develop the design for Ross Elementary School. From June 2022 to August 2023, the elementary school will undergo construction to improve the school in several ways. Angel Rivera with Huckabee, an architectural design rm, shared several planned upgrades. “We’re doing a pretty signicant facelift for Ross,” he said. Ross Elementary has a single lane at the southwest part of campus for parents to drop o their children. Architects plan to upgrade it to a double-stacked lane, increasing capacity. Additionally, there are about 96 parking spaces at the school, but based on enrollment, the number should be about 122. The redesign will increase the number of spaces to about 130. Architects plan to build an

Once redesigned, Ross Elementary School will have a more prominent entrance, among other improvements.

RENDERING COURTESY HUCKABEE

“We’re real excited about how those spaces are going to look,” Rivera said. “It’s going to be a complete ... makeover of the current campus as you see it today.” Phase 1 will run from June 2022 to August 2022 and include the new drop-o lanes. Phase 2 will go from September 2022 to June 2023 and include the new administrative wing.

Phase 3 will run fromMay 2023 to August 2023 and include the kitchen and classroom upgrades. In total, the project will take just over a year. Board members expressed excite- ment for the project before giving it unanimous approval. “There’s a lot of creative solutions in here,” President Laura DuPont said.

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BAY AREA EDITION • APRIL 2021

14

COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

CITYNOTES

News from League City

Getting BACK TO A BETTER YOU

League City nixes plans forMain Streetmedians

no cost to the city, said David Hoover, director of planning and development, at the time. City ocials pushed for the project to happen, noting that Main Street businesses have suered over the past several years because the area has stagnated economically. However, business owners along Main opposed the idea, claiming medians would make it harder for customers to reach their businesses. Ocials established a committee to examine this issue further, and the committee resolved to nix the medians plan. As a result, City Council had to vote to remove Main from TxDOT’s list.

BY JAKE MAGEE

LEAGUECITY The city is ocially no longer considering installing medians in place of the center turn lanes along Main Street, or FM 518. League City City Council on March 22 voted unanimously to remove the street from the Texas Department of Transportation’s list of roadways for TxDOT’s median improvement project. About a year ago, TxDOT told League City ocials it would be overlaying Main with new asphalt from just east of I-45 to just west of FM 270. At the same time, TxDOT said it could install medians in place of Main’s shared center turn lanes at

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CANCELEDMEDIANS

Originally, League City ocials wanted to install medians along these sections of Main Street. After negative feedback, the plans have been nixed.

270

270

45

3

N

City supports coastal barrier tax district

barrier to reduce ooding from hurricanes and coastal storm surge. The bill has not been nalized, but it would likely include a property tax cap of $0.05 per $100 valuation. That cap could be lowered, but it is probable the district will need to tax residents at least $0.025 per $100 valuation to aord the reg- ular maintenance the project will require, said state Sen. Larry Taylor, RFriendswood. “That’s a very small price to pay for the huge amount of protection we’d be getting,” Taylor said. League City City Council meets at 6 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 400 W. Walker St., League City. Watch at www.facebook.com/leaguecitytexas. MEETINGSWE COVER

BY JAKE MAGEE

LEAGUE CITY With a unanimous vote March 23, City Council showed support for the creation of the Gulf Coast Protection District, an entity that could be formed through the Texas Legislature to fund the $32 billion coastal barrier. The Legislature is in the process of considering House Bill 3029, a bill led by state Rep. Dennis Paul, RHouston. The bill would create the district to provide an authority to issue bonds and impose taxes. In other words, the district—which would include Galveston, Harris, Chambers, Jeerson and Orange counties—would have the ability to tax its residents to fund the coastal

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15

BAY AREA EDITION • APRIL 2021

BUSINESS FEATURE

BY COLLEEN FERGUSON

MASSAGE TYPES • Swedish • Prenatal

ADDONS

• Hot stones • Cupping therapy • Facials • Foot scrubs

• Deep tissue • Combination • Post-operative lymphatic drainage

Candles, including specialty cake- shaped candles, come in 8- to 22-ounce sizes, ranging from$11 to $25.

FetaCandles andMassage 1300 Bay Area Blvd., Ste B232, Webster 281-707-8651 www.fetacandlesandmassage.com Hours: Tue.-Sat. 9 a.m.-6 p.m., closed Sun.-Mon.

Tarsha Adams opened Feta Candles and Massage in summer 2019.

PHOTOS BY COLLEEN FERGUSONCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

Feta Candles andMassage Webster business oers post-op massages, homemade soy candles T arsha Adams’ business started with a love for candles and $200. Adams, the owner of Feta Candles and Massage, said she has always been Candles and Massage in August 2019. Adams bought the business from her godmother for $200; the name Feta comes from two letters of her name and two letters of her god- mother Felicia’s.

N

massage types and guring out which methods are best for which bodies, she said. Massage add-ons include hot stones, cupping therapy and a deluxe pamper treatment. Soy-based candles and other scent products are available in store or online for delivery, a service she said has saved her business amid the pandemic. In the future, she aims to oer massage and beard oils. She also hopes to relocate to a storefront, one not inside of an oce building so custom- ers can have an easier time coming in to experience everything the business has to oer. “I’m like the hidden gem [where I am now],” she said.

pandemic-related surgery restrictions change—as well as sports and deep tissue massages. The shop, located on the second oor of 1300 Bay Area Blvd., spans across four rooms, all of which are thoroughly cleaned and covered in protective equipment to abide by COVID-19-related guidelines. “It was very challenging learning about the body,” she said of massage school. “[But] once you get out into the massage eld and actually prac- tice, that’s when you become the best.” The greatest rewards for Adams come when clients rave about her business and the services she pro- vides. She has invested time into learning the dierences between

fascinated by candles. She turned to her godmother, who previously operated a candle-making business, for help perfecting the craft after her rst homemade attempts missed the mark. “That was just my newfound hobby at rst,” she said. Prior to owning the business, Adams gave free homemade candles to her cleaning business clients. After work- ing various odd jobs, rening her skills and doing the necessary schooling for massage therapy, she opened Feta

While she had family help with learning the ins and outs of can- dle-making, Adams taught herself to make the homemade wax melts, bath salts and all-purpose sprays oered at the shop. After completing massage school, she trained at dierent chiroprac- tors and spas and took classes to advance her knowledge of dierent massage types. Adams specializes in post-operative care—which she said has increased in popularity as

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

NONPROFIT

Clear Lake residents launch website to honor victims of COVID-19 COVID-19Wall ofMemories H ouston resident Noemi Perez-Botello died from COVID-19 in August at age online “wall” accepts submissions free of charge from anyone around the country. Entries can include all the information typical of an obituary BY COLLEEN FERGUSON

WALL OFMEMORIES

The COVID-19 Wall of Memories is an effort by Clear Lake residents Ruth and Mohammed Nasrullah to digitally honor victims of the pandemic. The virtual wall includes entries for several people who died from COVID-19 who had ties to southeast Houston.

76. Her granddaughter Sylvia Marti- nez submitted an entry about her life to the COVID-19 Wall of Memories, including a piece of poetry Martinez wrote about Perez-Botello. Once the family found out about the entry, several loved ones left comments about the life of their aunt, mother and grandmother, remember- ing her one-of-a-kind enchiladas and sense of humor. These celebrations of life and sharing of stories are exactly what the virtual wall’s co-creators, Clear Lake residents Ruth and Moham- med Nasrullah, had in mind for the nonprofit website. “We’re trying with this to tell the story of COVID-19 in the United States,” said Ruth, the nonprofit’s secretary and treasurer. As of April, more than 560,000 Americans have died as a result of the coronavirus. Mohammed, the presi- dent of the nonprofit, said he felt com- pelled to take action once the country reached the 100,000-death mark in late May; he and Ruth recruited a web developer then spent the summer and fall refining the site before its Jan. 4 launch. Seeing the rising death totals and case count surges made him think about the stories behind each statistic and want to put names, faces and photos with the numbers, he said. Inspired by the VietnamVeterans Memorial inWashington, D.C., the

along with the grave location, and entries can be searched on the site by name and area of residence. About 500 entries were present when the site officially launched, but the number of entries quadrupled in about a month, the Nasrullahs said in early February. Volunteers are uploading 80 to 100 new entries a day, they said. “We really want the opportunity to honor every COVID-19 victim in the country,” Mohammed said. Aside from the wall, the Daily Count section of the site updates the nationwide running total of corona- virus deaths with information from a The New York Times tracker, and the Just the Facts section is kept up to date with the latest health guidelines. The site also includes a “COVID-19 Observer” news section populated by a group of half a dozen volunteer writers aiming to enhance existing news coverage about the pandemic. Guest writers have included Houston City Council Member Letitia Plummer, who detailed her experience having COVID-19, and former Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman, who resigned from the post last spring due to health concerns. “What I’m trying to do is get differ- ent angles that you may not read about or may not have thought about,” Ruth said. “When you see the faces and

Clear Lake-area pediatrician Neera Bhutani died Jan. 2.

Alvin resident Margi Alejandra Piza died Jan. 11.

League City resident Mary Jane Garner died Jan. 25.

SHARE YOUR LOVEDONE’S STORY The Wall of Memories is a space for the faces, names and stories of people who have died from COVID-19. Visitors are invited to memorialize loved ones by creating an entry for them by doing the following: Visiting the website: WWW.COVID19WALLOFMEMORIES.ORG and clicking“ SUBMIT YOUR LOVED ONE’S STORY” Uploading a photo and your loved one’s story. 1

Ruth andMohammedNasrullah created the virtual wall.

Agreeing to the terms: Those submitting entries must confirm the information is true to the best of their knowledge and grant permission for it to be published and shared on the website and related social media. Waiting: Entries are uploaded by volunteers daily. Each story added to the wall enriches public understanding of the pandemic’s impact.

PHOTOS COURTESY RUTH NASRULLAH

2

COVID-19WALL OFMEMORIES 713-876-3624 www.covid19wallofmemories.org

3

SOURCE: RUTH NASRULLAH/ COMMUNITY IMPACT NSEWSPAPER

the stories, that kind of touches your heart, and then you come to the news and information part, and it makes you think.” The duo hopes to facilitate discus- sion or support groups through the site in the future since the effects of the pandemic will be felt for a long time, they said. While they are accepting donations for website costs, they

encourage community members to instead consider volunteering with or sharing information about the wall. They have no plans to stop provid- ing a venue for the memories—not until every single person who has died from COVID-19 has a spot on the wall. “Whether that’s too lofty a goal or not, that’s our goal,” Ruth said. “Every- one counts.”

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BAY AREA EDITION • APRIL 2021

A djustment

Learning

Since COVID-19, districts have been seeing varying decreases in the number of students who choose to learn remotely. Districts have noticed remote students tend to fail more classes than in-person students. Texas Education Agency officials hope state testing will show how students are learning during the pandemic.

Clear Creek ISD Remote learners

Friendswood ISD Remote learners

Pearland ISD Remote learners

Alvin ISD Remote learners

October 2020 March 2021

Fall 2020 Spring 2020

August 2020 March 2021

44% 26%

25% 19%

13% 6%

August 2020 October 2020 January 2021

50% 37% 32%

Failure rates

Failure rates

Failure rates

B

Overall TEA rating, 2019:

Intermediate and high school students, as of third quarter 2020-21:

Friendswood High School students, as of November:

Elementary students, as of fall 2020:

Student Achievement

School Progress

Closing the Gaps

3% 2%

Remote In person

Remote In person

30% 24%

Remote In person

29% 8.5%

B A B

Secondary students, as of December:

A

B

Remote In person

13% 10%

Overall TEA rating, 2019:

Overall TEA rating, 2019:

SOURCES: PEARLAND, FRIENDSWOOD, ALVIN AND CLEAR CREEK ISDS; TEXAS EDUCATION AGENCY/ COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER *DATA VARIES BETWEEN DISTRICTS DEPENDING ON WHAT DATA EACH DISTRICT HAD AVAILABLE BEFORE DEADLINE. “There will be some funding for virtual schools; I can assure you of that,” Taylor said. “I certainly want to make sure we meet the needs of every child.“ There is already a precedent for this idea: Today, the Texas Education Agency provides online courses state- wide through the Texas Virtual School Network, Taylor said. If funding for localized virtual schooling is granted, the TEA will have requirements for a school dis- trict to be able to offer full-time vir- tual schools. For instance, a district would have to be high performing; officials do not want a district to teach students online if it struggles to teach them face to face, Taylor said. Additionally, the intention of the bill is the TEA would measure virtual schools’ performance separately. “These virtual schools will have their own ratings separate from tradi- tional schools … to make sure they’re doing a good job for those students,” Taylor said. Learning loss A factor in CCISD’s decision to cre- ate an online school is increasing fail- ure rates, especially among online students, Ebell said. In a typical year, CCISD sees about 9% of high school students fail two or more classes. This first semester, the amount was closer to 17%, Ebell said. “That’s a significant increase in fail- ure rate,” he said. Additionally, the district has already noticed decreased performance in math and reading in lower grades. “...We are concerned about learning

Student Achievement

School Progress

Closing the Gaps

Student Achievement

School Progress

Closing the Gaps

B

A B B

A B A

Overall TEA rating, 2019:

Student Achievement

School Progress

Closing the Gaps

IT IS A CHALLENGE [BEING] COMPLETELYONLINE… A SCREEN IS NEVERGOING TOBE THE SAME [AS] IF YOUAND I WERE IN THE SAME ROOMTALKING. STEVENEBELL, CCISDDEPUTY SUPERINTENDENTOF CURRICULUMAND INSTRUCTION

A

A B

“self-paced electives,” virtual clubs, both synchronous and asynchronous learning, and its own class rank sys- tem and graduation ceremony. Virtual students would be held to the same academic standards as in-person stu- dents, officials said. CCISD hosted webinars to provide more information to parents about the virtual academy, and enrollment closed in mid-April with parents from all grade levels signing their children up for Clear Connections Virtual School. CCISD is in the process of assessing how many teachers would be needed at each grade level to fully staff the all-online school, Senior Communications Specialist Sydney Hunt said. The school is not guaranteed to become reality. If the state does not opt to fund virtual learning next school year, CCISD will nix the idea. However, state Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood—who represents an area including the district and chairs the Senate Committee on Education— said he is confident the legislative ses- sion will result in funding for virtual schools, allowing CCISD’s plan. Senate Bill 27, introduced by Taylor, is directly related to funding virtual schools, as is House Bill 1468. While Taylor believes most students per- form better face to face, some thrive learning online, he said.

Similar trends are occurring nearby. Friendswood ISD had 13% students remote in the fall and has 6% as of March. At the start of the school year, Pearland ISD had half of its students online, but as of January, it is down to 32%, according to district data. With Clear Connections Virtual Academy, there will be less fluctua- tion. Students who opt for the online school will commit to attending it for a full school year, officials said. Students whowant to enroll in Clear Connections Virtual School will have to unenroll from the campus to which they are zoned and enroll in the vir- tual academy as a “school of choice.” This online school may remain even after the pandemic ends, Ebell said. In a survey of 340 remote students, parents and teachers, 52% indicated they would enroll in a full-time online learning program next year, CCISD Chief Communications Officer Elaina Polsen said. “We do think there is a future for this,” Ebell said. Clear Connections Virtual School students will still be able to partic- ipate in before- and after-school extracurricular activities at the school to which they are zoned. Addition- ally, the virtual school will allow for

CONTINUED FROM 1

like many other districts locally and even nationwide, officials are notic- ing learning loss due to the pandemic, especially among students learning virtually, said Steven Ebell, CCISD deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction. These challenges prompted the CCISD board in late March to approve creating what will become a fully online school. “We’re moving away from that hybrid model. That model is not sus- tainable for us,” Ebell said. “That has been an incredible challenge to man- age both environments.” Virtual academy Pending state funding from the Texas Legislature, CCISD plans to launch Clear Connections Virtual School for all grade levels at the start of the 2021-22 school year. Today, students can migrate between Clear Connections and in-person instruction every few weeks. As time goes on, more students are opting for in-person instruction. In October, 25% of students were learning remotely. As of March, the number had dropped to 19%.

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

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