In Houston, children spend a lot of daytime at school. Depending on your country of origin, your child may take some time getting used to the school life, its long hours, activities after school but still school related, such as sports, drama and plays and still having to do homework when coming home.Kindergarten still offers play-time but once the children are in elementary, the time in school becomes demanding. During the day, there are only short breaks. Elementary may have classes from morning until afternoon with a lunch break and two bathroom breaks of 15 minutes each for the whole class. Middle and high school have class periods that are 50 minutes long, with 5 minute breaks in between and then a 30 minute lunch break. Depending on district, there are 6 or 8 periods. Lunch is provided at the school but must be purchased (lunch money) or can be brought from home. Some schools do qualify for free lunch if they are low-income, for example. Many schools only offer fast food and while there is a trend towards offering a healthier diet that a lot of parents are fighting for, if you want to ensure that your child eats well, check with the school or pack your child’s lunch.
Unless directed by the school (such as private schools), children can wear standard street clothes to school and standard exercise clothes for sports. For specific sports, such as football, soccer or baseball, the school may require an appropriate dress such as a uniform or jerseys. Most schools have dress codes making sure that fashion is acceptable, such as no low-cut blouses, acceptable shorts and skirt length, and pants to be worn at the waist and not baggy.
Students have assigned lockers at school for items that don’t need to be carried to each class. To take material home, students in Houston carry their books and maps in normal backpacks.
If your child goes to the school assigned by the school district, they can use the bus offered by the school for standard transportation. They pick up the children around 7 am and drop the kids off around 4 pm. As an expat, you may notice that many parents accompany their children to the unmarked bus stop and see their children off and they will also pick their children up as soon as they get off the bus.
If you have enrolled your child in a different school, you will have to provide your own transportation. Some parents also drive their children to school themselves on their way to work so there is always a lot of traffic in front of schools and wait time can be quite long as children are generally dropped off right at the entrance and there is a long line of cars starting on the street. Due to lack of sidewalks in many areas and the high amount of traffic in school zones, only a few select parents let their children out at the nearest intersection. Driving near schools is strictly regulated by law enforcement and has a slow speed zone and even slower when classes begin or are out. Those very slow speeds are signaled by blinking lights. Children don’t become more independent from their parents until they reach driving age. Older high school kids (16 years and up) will drive their own car or carpool.
Safety and health is a big priority at Houston schools. Every school prohibits the carrying of guns or knives to school and violations are punished severely with transfers or up to a one year ban from school. For the health safety of all students, it is mandatory for a school to have a full time LVN (licensed vocational nurse) or RN (registered nurse) on campus at all times. HISD (Houston Independent School District) for example employs its own nurses that students are sent to when feeling unwell or have minor injuries.