When rising junior Samanta Lopez looked for the courses she had planned to take this school year on Lewisville ISD’s online course offerings July 17, she was shocked to find none of them on the list.
“I had already planned both of [my] last years of high school,” Lopez said. “It’s going to be really problematic to switch it so last minute.”
Lopez and her friends Anushka Chakravarthi and Maya Thakur, also rising juniors at Flower Mound High School, spoke with roughly 50 students who also were either missing a course or had another issue with the online learning option.
Thirty of those students signed their names at the bottom of a July 21 letter to LISD administrators, school board members, leadership and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath.
The letter highlighted a number of Advanced Placement courses that did not make it to the district’s online curriculum list, as well as courses such as American Sign Language and computer science, and asked the district to reconsider not offering them online.
The district is currently offering all pre-AP courses, 13 AP courses and a number of electives online in the 2020-21 school year. Those who would like to take courses not offered online in middle and high schools have the option of taking some elective courses in person at their home campus.
Having limitations on courses available online forces students to make a decision between health and future success, the letter said.
"It goes against educational equality ... not having that same curriculum and opportunities as our peers that are choosing to go full time in person,” Lopez said. “We need that right."
The district shared a statement from Superintendent Kevin Rogers after receiving the letter, stating he and the district understand and value the perspectives shared, but that scheduling courses for roughly 4,000 high school students is a complex process.
“Even in a typical school year, students have to make choices about what fits in their schedule,” Rogers said. “In the midst of a global pandemic, when we are running two parallel school districts simultaneously to try and meet the needs of 52,000 students, the choices are more difficult for everyone.”
Lopez is considering alternative learning options, which could cost close to $2,000, she said, but plans to respond to the district’s commitment form by the initial deadline of July 22 as an online student.
Chakravarthi expects to continue her studies with LISD regardless of course offerings, she said, but she would feel the need to supplement her education with outside resources for classes not being offered online.
“I feel like the role of school is to be provided these courses,” Chakravarthi said. “I shouldn't have to seek this out on my own.”
The three students also created a Change.org petition over the weekend and have received more than 800 signatures as of July 21. A newly created Instagram platform dedicated to the issue has just under 200 followers.
Lopez, Chakravarthi and Thakur plan to continue the dialogue by gathering more supporters. The group would also like the opportunity to discuss their thoughts with the school board virtually, they said.
“There is no ideal solution,” Thakur said. “But since we have to make do with what we have, I think it's important that the school district considers how best to maximize... quality education for everyone, not just the people who are attending in person.”
Correction: A previous photo caption listed an incorrect date for when the student letter was sent.