Here is how 5 Bay Area school districts are going back to school

School start dates among the districts range from Aug. 18 -26, leaders said. (Courtesy Fotolia)
School start dates among the districts range from Aug. 18 -26, leaders said. (Courtesy Fotolia)

School start dates among the districts range from Aug. 18 -26, leaders said. (Courtesy Fotolia)

Superintendents from several Bay Area school districts, including Clear Creek ISD and Friendswood ISD, shared their reopening plans and answered questions from community members during an Aug. 12 webinar.

CCISD Superintendent Greg Smith said district leaders and their boards of trustees have been put in a difficult situation amid the pandemic, attempting to distill and use information from federal, state and local entities to inform their decisions.

“This is not going to be perfect by any stretch of the imagination,” he said of the return to school.

School start dates among the districts range from Aug. 18-26, leaders said. The 53,000 students in Pasadena ISD will return to school fully remote Aug. 18 with the 35% of its students who chose in-person learning returning to campuses Sept. 8, Superintendent DeeAnn Powell said. In La Porte ISD, the district is abiding by the start date of Aug. 19 that it set in the spring; the 51% of students who chose in-person learning will return to campuses Sept. 5. La Porte ISD is still working on a phase-in plan for the start of in-person instruction, Superintendent Walter Jackson said during the webinar, which was hosted by Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership.

Dickinson ISD’s phase-in plan is similar to that of CCISD: All 11,400 students will begin online Aug. 24 with the pre-K, kindergarten and some special education students who chose in-person instruction returning to campuses Aug. 31. The rest of the students learning in person—53%—will return Sept. 14, Superintendent Carla Voelkel said.



Friendswood ISD changed its start date from Aug. 19 to Aug. 26, and the district’s plan also involves transitioning with in-person pre-K and special education learners. These students will return to campus Aug. 26, while all others start virtually. Both elementary and secondary students who chose in-person instruction will return to campuses at 50% capacity that week, and starting Aug. 31, all in-person students will be in physical classrooms.

Three in every 4 FISD students chose in-person instruction for 2020-21, Superintendent Thad Royer said. Despite the fact most students will not be using the virtual learning platform, the district is investing significant time into refining and improving online education tools so they can be used in the future, Royer said.

“Our focus has really been on building a virtual program that isn't just a one-year deal,” he said. “We’re hoping for it to be a learning experience.”

In CCISD, Smith said the remote learning experience will be markedly different from how it was in the spring. Instead of having students complete work on their own schedule, students will be in a virtual classroom, engaging with their teachers in real time during that class period through the district’s new Clear Connections platform.

The district has a 238-page booklet of its COVID-19-related standard operating procedures, which employees are being walked through, he said.

“We have a lot of ground to cover, [but] we’re excited," Smith said.

Inevitably, Smith added, there will be coronavirus outbreaks within every school district in the Bay Area. Deep-cleaning procedures on campuses will be imperative in keeping the community healthy, he said.

The district will concern itself with student academic performance but will prioritize the social and emotional health of its students over grades and try to “reach the hearts before the heads,” Smith said.

Royer echoed that sentiment when asked about the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Performance, adding the 6,200-student district will not center its teaching around the standardized tests. While the testing requirements were waived for the 2019-20 school year amid the pandemic, they will return for the upcoming school year, according to the latest Texas Education Agency guidance.

FISD faculty and staff have engaged in town halls with the community to help share information about new safety procedures and answer parent questions, Royer said. Like Smith, he emphasized the district will provide a more authentic learning experience for its students this fall.

“Whatever the numbers are gonna be ... it’s going to be important for it to not be what it was,” he said in reference to online education. “We cannot have a gap in our society for our lack of being able to provide.”

By Colleen Ferguson
A native central New Yorker, Colleen Ferguson worked as an editorial intern with the Cy-Fair and Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood editions of Community Impact before joining the Bay Area team in 2020. Colleen graduated from Syracuse University in 2019, where she worked for the campus's independent student newspaper The Daily Orange, with a degree in Newspaper and Online Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a degree in Spanish language and culture. Colleen previously interned with The Journal News/lohud, where she covered the commute in the greater New York City area.

<

MOST RECENT

Texas Medical Center offers coronavirus updates

More than 118,000 people have received their first shot.

Harris County Flood Control District is planning to submit preliminary flood plain maps to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in late 2021. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Harris County's preliminary flood plain maps to be released in late 2021

The new flood insurance rates in Harris County could take effect in 2023 or 2024.

vaccine drive-thru
Houston opens first drive-thru vaccination site

The site aims to distribute 1,000 doses per day for the first week and can scale up if more doses become available.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced the opening of a COVID-19 vaccine waitlist at a Jan. 25 press conference. (Screenshot courtesy Facebook)
Harris County to open waitlist for COVID-19 vaccines Jan. 26

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo warned that vaccine supply remains "extremely limited," and it will still take time for those waitlisted to get an appointment.

Eric Williams started as superintendent Jan. 18. (Courtesy of Clear Creek ISD)
Eric Williams concludes first week as Clear Creek ISD superintendent

Williams plans to spend his first months on the job discovering how the district can sustain and build on its quality of education.

“Hope is on the horizon,” Fort Bend County Judge KP George said at a press conference Jan. 4. “The vaccine is here.”
Vaccine distribution starts in Fort Bend County and more top Houston-area news

Read the most popular news from the past week from the Houston area.

One local health system leader said he expects everyone, including those under age 65, will have access to the vaccine within the next 90 days. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Houston-area health system leaders talk progress, hurdles during COVID-19

Officials from CHI St. Luke’s Health and UTMB Health said community members must remain vigilant as case counts climb but that they expect the current surge to peak by early February.

During a North Houston Association meeting Jan. 20, Jazz Hamilton—first vice president with the Retail Brokerage Services Group for CBRE—discussed how the future of retail will likely be shaped by the conveniences to which consumers have become accustomed amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
Pandemic-induced retail conveniences are here to stay, official says

According to Jazz Hamilton, first vice president with the Retail Brokerage Services group for CBRE, between January and November of 2020, consumers spent almost $550 billion online—a 33% increase from 2019.

The estimated number of active COVID-19 cases in Harris County has surpassed 50,000, reaching 51,362 as of the most recent data Jan. 20, according to the Harris County Public Health Department. (Community Impact staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: Active cases top 50,000

See the latest trends on COVID-19 in Harris County.

More than 3,200 new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Galveston County since Jan. 6. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Galveston County adds 38 COVID-19 deaths in 2 weeks

Nearly 30% of the total county coronavirus cases are considered active as of Jan. 20.