In a special meeting Aug. 3, the KISD board of trustees voted unanimously to delay the start of the school year, along with in-person instruction, from Aug. 19 until Aug. 26. The board also opted to create early release days from Aug. 26-28.
“We need more time for our teachers and staff,” KISD Superintendent Rick Westfall said. “Academic development is being set aside in preparation for safety measures.”
Westfall noted that Tarrant County Public Health orders initially delayed in-person instruction until Sept. 28, but the Texas Education Agency shifted its guidance so as not to support school closures.
KISD teachers and staff will still return Aug. 10, and a delayed start to in-person instruction will provide the district more time to gather relevant information, Westfall said. Parents now have until Aug. 12 to select in-person or remote learning options for students.
At the special meeting, nearly 50 parents, students, teachers and community members addressed the KISD board for two hours, including Keller High School teacher Brian Ketcham.
“Our job as teachers is incredibly easier in person than it is online,” he said. “I think I speak for most teachers when I say we want in-person instruction ... when we can keep ourselves, our families and our students safe.”
For KISD fine arts teacher Anna Morrison, the risk is quite clear, she said.
At the elementary level, Morrison said she sees an average of 600 students per week and that she has caught the flu four times in the past five years.
When KISD students return for in-person instruction Aug. 26, the district has a large supply of personal protective equipment for use by students, teachers and staff, according to KISD Director of Facility Services Hudson Huff.
“When it comes to this mess, children are safer at school than they are at home,” said Lynn Kelly, parent of two students at Keller High School. “I’m at the point where everything is telling me to let the kids go back.”
From the TEA, the district has received 3,600 gallons of hand sanitizer; 218,000 single-use masks; 56,000 reusable masks; 92,000 single-use, child-size masks; and 3,600 face shields, Huff said.
“We’ve also ordered and will be receiving hand sanitizer stands and pumps,” he said. “And we’ve begun installing plexiglass material at front desk areas and putting down social distancing markers on sidewalks and near restrooms and other gathering areas.”
The KISD board is expected to meet later this month as officials receive additional guidance from the TEA and continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on public health.
“I miss school. Everyone does,” KISD junior Miles Connor said. “But if you care about my life, ... you will rethink your decision to allow me and the people I love into a crowded building during a global pandemic.”