Frisco ISD students to begin eLearning March 17; board votes to pay staff during school closures

The Frisco ISD Board of Trustees approved a resolution declaring an emergency closure of schools as part of the district's response to the spread of coronavirus. (William C. Wadsack/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Frisco ISD Board of Trustees approved a resolution declaring an emergency closure of schools as part of the district's response to the spread of coronavirus. (William C. Wadsack/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Frisco ISD Board of Trustees approved a resolution declaring an emergency closure of schools as part of the district's response to the spread of coronavirus. (William C. Wadsack/Community Impact Newspaper)

Frisco ISD teachers will convene digitally on March 16 to work out plans for delivering instruction online so that the district's more than 63,000 students may begin classwork remotely starting at 9 a.m. March 17.

These plans for eLearning are meant to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. The update came during a March 15 special meeting of the board of trustees, which also approved a resolution that will allow the district’s more than 7,000 employees to be paid while schools are closed.

Chief Academic Officer Wes Cunningham told the board the digital instruction will initially be made up of school work that students will review on their own rather than as part of a digital class held at a specific time.

“On Tuesday, our students will have access to activities,” Cunningham said. “Students will be asked to participate in these eLearning activities on a regular basis, and teachers will be asked to provide feedback and support for students on a regular basis.”

He explained teachers are being instructed to use the devices, the software and the programs that are familiar to them and their students. Cunningham also told the board that the district is asking teachers to think about lessons a week at a time and to concentrate on reviewing primary standards, concepts and skills during this first week. For the week ahead, Cunningham also said the district is asking teachers not to grade any of the work given to students.


“Right now, our guidance for our staff is to limit the lessons that are online to 20-25 minutes per subject per day for elementary and secondary [students],” Cunningham said. “So a high school student who has eight classes would have roughly...close to four hours worth of stuff that they could be doing per day.”

Cunningham said students at FISD’s Early Childhood School and in pre-K classes would be given about 10-15 minute lessons in each subject. Board President Chad Rudy said teachers will work to develop a strategy for providing instruction when they convene digitally March 16.

District staff are also working to get electronic devices to students who need one to participate in the digital instruction process. Parents should have received messages from their individual campuses with instructions on what to do if their student needed a device.

George Sapp, a parent of four Frisco ISD students, attended Sunday’s board meeting and said he liked the plans laid out by district staff for the week ahead. Sapp said he believes his older two students, a 12th grader and seventh grader, are ready to receive digital instruction.

“I think, especially my oldest, they already have some eLearning books, they use Google Classroom, [and] they use a number of the other platforms,” he said. “Most of the things they do are online, so I think he will adapt to it.”

For his younger two students, one in second grade and one in kindergarten, Sapp said he plans to sit down with them to make sure they are getting the proper instruction and not losing any of the skills they have gained this year.

The board also approved a resolution declaring an emergency closure of all district facilities for the week of March 16-20, with additional closures past that date possible.

The resolution “authorizes continued wage payments to all employees” instructed not to report to work during the emergency closures, and nonexempt employees required to work will be paid at a premium rate.

“All employees, full- and part-time, will continue to receive full pay while we’re closed,” Chief Financial Officer Kimberly Smith said. “I think that’s been a big question for people. That resolution does allow us to do that.”

Smith explained any nonexempt staff members that are asked to work by a supervisor during the closure will receive time and a half for hours worked.

Superintendent Mike Waldrip said plans are regularly changing as the district obtains new information. Staff levels needed at schools could be adjusted and modified in the coming days, he said.

“Just because we’re starting tomorrow a certain way doesn’t mean that it will be that way Tuesday or it will be that way Wednesday or that it will be that way Thursday,” Waldrip said. “We’re going to see how things go, what essential services need to be provided and can we do this or that without these people being physically present on campus. So that will probably change on a daily basis.”

Waldrip also said he has personally spoken with Texas Education Agency Commissioner of Education Mike Morath, who has told districts to deal with issue in schools rather than worry about school finance.

“He has assured school districts that as long as we are providing some level of instruction to our students, that we will be made whole and for us not to concern ourselves with school funding and school finance issues,” Waldrip said.

The Frisco ISD superintendent also told the board of an effort underway to ask the state to cancel the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, also known as STAAR tests, for the 2019-20 school year. Waldrip said Frisco ISD was among 60 school districts that sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Education Agency requesting STAAR testing be canceled.

No decision has yet been made by the state on STAAR testing for this school year.
By William C. Wadsack
William C. Wadsack is the senior reporter for the Plano and Richardson editions of Community Impact Newspaper. He previously served as managing editor of several daily and weekly publications in North Texas and his native state of Louisiana before joining Community Impact Newspaper in 2019.


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