These options are face-to-face instruction, a hybrid of in-person and at-home learning, and 100% virtual instruction.
Members of the task force presented their findings to the MISD board of trustees at its June 23 meeting. Earlier that day, the Texas Education Agency released guidelines mandating school districts to offer some form of on-campus instruction during the 2020-21 school year.
Superintendent Rick McDaniel said his preference for an educational environment is face-to-face instruction, but he said that parents will have the option to allow their children to continue remote learning, even as the district prepares for a return to classrooms under TEA guidelines.
“We will have a virtual ability to deliver instruction, and we will also have an in-person ability to do so,” he said.
During the board meeting, MISD teacher Stephanie Bird illustrated how a hybrid model could be implemented across all classrooms. She pulled up a Zoom meeting with volunteer “students” and demonstrated that teachers can share their screen to give lessons to students virtually while simultaneously teaching to students in a classroom.
Bird said this method also allows her to give students quizzes and tests with or without time limits. Preparing lessons for this format took about the same amount of time as it had for a traditional classroom setting, she said.
“It was not easy trying to figure out all the different pieces and making sure all the pieces worked together,” Bird said. “But now that I have a good system of, ‘Wow, this really works well,’ I think it'd be easy then to go to different teachers and say, ‘This is how you can do it.’”
McDaniel noted this model would be an “improvement” over what teachers had to adapt to during the spring, and board members also commented on the value of having lessons recorded and available in the district’s Canvas system for students to revisit if needed for their assignments.
This also provides a solution for if the coronavirus resurges and the school district needs to adopt an all-virtual format, trustees said. Staff also pointed out that there would be enough devices for every student should this need arise.
While trustees applauded the presentation, McDaniel noted that this was not the district’s final plan. The state has yet to offer final guidance to districts on what in-person instruction and public health measures must look like during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Without this information on safety measures, the district is pushing back its upcoming announcement about its final plan for the upcoming school year, McDaniel said.
This plan should still be released in July, he said, and parents will have the opportunity to digest the plan and the information in it before the district sends out a form to parents. This form will ask parents to submit what kind of instruction they prefer heading into the next school year.
“Parents need to make an informed decision based upon whether or not they can send their students to school and remain safe,” McDaniel said. “So the guidelines and structures that we need to put in place, those that will be mandated, and those that we decide as a district have to be finalized before we can give the plan to the public and allow them to make an informed decision. So I assure you as quickly as we can possibly do that, we'll get the plan out.”