Starting Nov. 2, some Clear Creek ISD families can send their youngest learners to school for free online.
Clear Connections, with programming available in English and Spanish, is now available to families who qualify for free prekindergarten and whose children are identified as at risk. The online learning program is also now available for early-childhood special education students. CCISD will issue technology to qualifying pre-K students upon request, according to an Oct. 29 media release.
Here is a roundup of news from the district, including more on the new pre-K online learning option and notable agenda items from the Oct. 26 board of trustees meeting.
Online learning expanded
Children must meet a specific set of requirements to qualify for free virtual pre-K during the 2020-21 school year. The child must reside in CCISD boundaries, have turned 4 years old on or before Sept. 1, and meet one of the following criteria:
- has limited English proficiency;
- is economically disadvantaged or homeless;
- is the child of either a parent in the military or a parent who was injured or killed while actively serving;
- is or has been in the conservatorship of the state of Texas; or
- is the child of a person eligible for the Star of Texas Award as peace officer, firefighter or emergency medical first responder.
The online learning program will include asynchronous lessons—where students engage in the learning materials, interacting regularly with the teacher via a computer or other electronic device—guided by a certified pre-K teacher. The lessons will focus on social and emotional skills; prereading and writing skills; phonological awareness and alphabet knowledge; and math, science and social studies, per the Oct. 29 media release.
“We heard from many parents who were interested in starting their child’s learning in pre-kindergarten but their personal circumstances did not align yet with the brick and mortar environment,” Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Holly Hughes said in the release. “We want to provide options that fit every family’s comfort level, especially those facing hardships, so we worked to develop an online instruction option for young learners to help jump start their education."
The district also offers free half-day and full-day early-learning programs for qualifying families as well as a tuition-based pre-K program on a space-available basis, per the release. Whether signing up for brick-and-mortar or Clear Connections schooling, families may enroll in pre-K at any time during the school year at www.ccisd.net/enroll.
The percentage of online learners among the district’s K-12 students shrunk slightly after the first nine weeks of the year: About 70% of students are now learning in person. Attendance for both brick-and-mortar and Clear Connections students has been around 96%, Superintendent Greg Smith said at an Oct. 26 board of trustees meeting.
Like with online pre-K, online education for the district’s K-12 students focuses on the whole child: Live virtual speaker sessions, meant to empower students through social and emotional learning, started in late October, district officials said at the Oct. 26 board meeting.
Board approves Pre-AP name change
Pre-Advanced Placement courses for intermediate and high school students will be called Honors courses starting in fall 2021 after the board of trustees voted to approve the name change unanimously Oct. 26.
The district currently offers more than 100 Pre-AP classes, including accelerated courses, for sixth through 12th graders. Students do not need to be part of a Gifted and Talented program to take accelerated or Pre-AP courses. One of the main stipulations accompanying a Pre-AP designation involves CCISD either following exactly the curriculum set by the College Board or having to vet an alternate curriculum through the College Board’s process, which offers little to no flexibility for personalization, according to a Nov. 2 media release.
Keeping the Pre-AP designation would not only be expensive—each Pre-AP course costs $3,000 per year—but would make the courses assessment heavy, which is in conflict with district philosophy, said Glenda Holder, the executive director of the Gifted and Talented program, during the meeting. The course name change will not affect course material, she added.
Nine other Texas ISDs, including Katy, Pearland and Friendswood, have already shed the Pre-AP designation with similar changeover timelines to CCISD. This change will save the district about $278,000 annually, Holder and Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Susan Silva said.
“We try to make sure that students are finding their niche and where they're going to excel,” Holder said of accelerated courses and Gifted and Talented programming overall. “We really do encourage and work with our counseling department to encourage students that have an aptitude ... to go into [one of these pathways].”
Other business: Superintendent search, long-range assessments
The board met in closed session during the day Oct. 27 and 28 to continue the superintendent search process. The vote and announcement of the lone finalist are planned for the first week in November.
In terms of district planning, the board approved $169,000 in expenditures toward an architect and engineering services contract Oct. 26. CCISD’s Facility Services Department requested 2017 bond savings and interest money to update facility assessments for secondary campuses, selected support facilities, bond and long-range planning, and other professional services.
Paul McLarty, the deputy superintendent of business and support services, said the updated assessments are necessary to determine which areas in the district are being built out, since this in turn influences where new schools are built.
“We’re looking ahead to see where the growth is going,” he said.
The work done by the contracted firms is just a piece of the puzzle, district officials said during the meeting. Aside from evidence presented by the firms, the district has its own list of prioritized projects and draws on feedback from a public Facility Advisory Committee. The committee examines each potential project then recommends which projects should move forward, McLarty said.
Trustee Scott Bowen was the lone dissenter among trustees voting on the services contract. The process seems reactive rather than proactive and needs to be reoriented so it is not part of a multiyear cycle, he said.
“We should be trying to define a process that is more ongoing,” Bowen said during the meeting. “Like we tell our students: Start with the end in mind.”