Clear Creek ISD leaders discuss pandemic-induced changes to 2020-21 school year

About 4 in every 10 Clear Creek ISD students chose virtual instruction to begin the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
About 4 in every 10 Clear Creek ISD students chose virtual instruction to begin the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

About 4 in every 10 Clear Creek ISD students chose virtual instruction to begin the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Clear Creek ISD officials gave an update to the community on efforts to keep students and staff protected from COVID-19 during the 2020-21 school year at a regular board meeting Sept. 28.

Public health officials, district leaders, students and staff were all involved in creating Safely Reopen CCISD. The high schoolers involved in the CCISD Students for Safety group, which was organized on its own, played a key role in helping the district devise its reopening plans by ensuring students had a voice, Superintendent Greg Smith said during the meeting.

Marina Keeton, the district’s lead nurse, said there is strong evidence the protocols in place are working. There are no pockets of COVID-19 outbreaks within specific campuses, which indicates the virus is not spreading at school, she said.

The district welcomed about 10,000 in-person learners back to campus Aug. 31, and the remaining students who chose in-person instruction for the 2020-21 academic year returned to classrooms Sept. 14. Since Aug. 24, CCISD has updated an infographic daily with the total number of cases by campus.

From Aug. 24-28, the district had four active cases, only one of which was in a student; over the course of the next two weeks, before students returned to campus in full, the total number of active cases remained between one and four. The total number of active cases peaked Sept. 25 at 20; of those, 19 were among students.

The district has operated at stage four of its five-stage response protocol since opening its doors. This stage, called “mitigation,” is for when one or more cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at one facility.

There are nine active cases among students and seven among staff as of Oct. 5. Active cases reflect where a student or staff member entered a CCISD building within 48 hours of a positive test; once recovered or no longer active, cases will be removed.

About 6 in every 10 students chose to return to in-person classes for the first nine weeks of the school year. For in-person elementary students, classrooms look different this year with added space for physical distancing, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Holly Hughes said at the Sept. 28 meeting. Across the district, pre-K enrollment has decreased, she added.

Officials are constantly reviewing the daily patterns of secondary students to try to account for high-contact areas, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Karen Engle said. Changes so far include one-way hallways; distancing measures implemented during lunch; and, for students involved in athletics, a revised football schedule with stadiums operating below 30% capacity.

Other educational changes include transitioning the district to the use of Microsoft Teams. Chief Technology Officer Robert Bayard said although the transition happened relatively quickly over just a few weeks before the start of the year, it was a “huge success.” The laptops ordered by CCISD to close its digital divide and provide a device for every student should arrive very soon, he added.

The district saw nearly 60 resignations this school year—28 professional staffers and 30 support staffers—and created more than 200 additional substitute positions, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Casey O’Pry said Sept. 28. More than 80 staff members have been granted pandemic-related accommodations, including the ability to work from home, as an effort to keep staff from leaving the district, he said.

However, the transportation department is considered fully staffed, with absenteeism at its lowest in recent memory, said Paul McLarty, the deputy superintendent of business and support services. The district has performed its bus cleaning in-house and did not need to contract those services out, he added.

By Colleen Ferguson

Reporter, Bay Area

A native central New Yorker, Colleen worked as an editorial intern with the Cy-Fair and Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood editions of Community Impact Newspaper before joining the Bay Area team in 2020. She covers public education, higher education, business and development news in southeast Houston. Colleen graduated in 2019 from Syracuse University and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, where she worked for the university's independent student newspaper The Daily Orange. Her degrees are in journalism and Spanish language and culture. When not chasing a story, Colleen can be found petting cats and dogs, listening to podcasts, swimming or watching true crime documentaries.



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