Clear Creek ISD is preparing to open its schools in the fall with coronavirus-related restrictions, the details of which are being worked out by the board of trustees and the Safely Reopen CCISD Committee.
After incorporating feedback from a public input meeting June 16, the committee presented final recommendations to the board during its June 22 regular meeting. Medical professionals, county and local authorities, faith leaders, parents, district staff and CCISD students comprise the committee. Recommendations were first presented at a June 8 workshop.
Overall, the recommendations include refining the school calendar to account for a potential COVID-19 resurgence; developing academic, social and emotional learning expectations; and mitigating the digital divide across CCISD.
“We all need to be responsible citizens and teach our children how to be responsible as well,” Superintendent Greg Smith said June 22.
Draft guidelines released by the Texas Education Agency on June 23 fell in line with Gov. Greg Abbott’s previous comments, mandating school districts offer some form of on-campus instruction during the 2020-21 school year. A majority of the CCISD parents that spoke at the June 16 meeting said returning to fully in-person instruction was the best course of action.
Remote learning can still be an option for school districts, parents and teachers, it just cannot be the only option, per the TEA. Students will be able to record their attendance through either on-campus or virtual instruction, and parents will be allowed to request that their child be offered virtual instruction.
Parents push for in-person instruction
Two of the final charges presented to the board detailed the various procedures that would be necessary for a safe reopening in August. These include conducting basic health screenings for students and staff; enforcing hand-washing protocols; providing mental health supports for students and staff as well as trauma-sensitive professional learning for staff; developing protocols for high-risk employees and students; and creating guidelines for the safe operation of athletics programs, student organizations and other extracurricular activities.
Several parents with students who have disabilities spoke June 16 about how important in-person instruction is for their children, but they also said enforcing the use of personal protective equipment such as masks in special education classrooms will be virtually impossible.
Student committee members emphasized how important the connections and relationships are that they form with teachers over the course of their education; many parents who participated in the public input meeting said their children felt they had lost the ability to make those connections amid the pandemic-enforced distance learning.
“We heard that reverberated over and over ... [that children] lost interest in school because they lost that connection with the teacher,” committee co-Chair Catharine Pierce said June 22.
Smith said the district would revise its distance learning experience based on feedback from the end of the 2019-20 school year. Offerings for distance learning will be available to any school-age student living within the district, including students who previously were attending private or parochial schools, he said.
Public input spurs revised recommendation
After listening to parent input, the committee also added a recommendation that the district extend the school day by approximately 10 minutes. The extra time would be used to implement safety protocols and allow teachers to maximize time for instruction. Smith said June 22 that adding the 10 extra minutes would give the district necessary flexibility without affecting transportation schedules, but no formal action was taken to do so.
The board approved an additional 9.5 full-time employees, which will cost the district about $560,000, at the June 22 meeting. The district may need additional staff to ensure a robust distance learning experience, Smith said.
No official changes have been announced for the upcoming school year as of June 24. The full text of the final recommendations is available online. The board and CCISD community will receive weekly updates on the progress made toward planning the 2020-21 school year, officials said at the meeting.
“We certainly learned lessons from the last couple of months ... and now it’s acting on those lessons,” board President Laura DuPont said June 22. “The district is doing its best and wants to be as responsive as it can. ... Our hope is that we can move forward with a flexible middle ground.”