The district previously said it would offer in-person and online options for students in the fall, but after receiving a letter from Montgomery County Public Health District, Null said he decided to switch to all-remote learning for the first four weeks of school. In-person instruction will begin Sept. 8.
“I’m a parent just like you are. And I have to live with the same decisions that you do, and they’re not easy,” Null said. “And so, even if in the end of this whole plan, you disagree with what I’ve done, what I don’t ever want you to do is to walk away thinking that decisions are made haphazardly or decisions are made for political reasons. ... In Conroe ISD, decisions are made in the best interest of our children, our employees and the community every day.”
This temporary remote option is allowed for by the Texas Education Agency in order to allow districts to “ramp up” and prepare campuses and staff for students.
As part of this ramping up, Null said that on the second week of school, which begins August 17, a small portion of students will be brought in for in-person instruction in order to prepare staff for the regulations and health guidelines. This will progress every week if it goes well—up to Sept. 8, when full in-person instruction is reinstated. The first students selected will be approximately 5%-10% of the students with “the most needs,” whether physical or medical.
For families that may have difficulties connecting with remote learning, whether through lack of technology or busy schedules, Null said campuses will be reasonable and help families in any way possible. For example, Wi-Fi hotspots will be installed at 20 CISD buildings for families to use in the parking lot, and they will be available for hookup 24/7.
Null acknowledged that the decision to go remote is not popular and said he has gotten a mixed response from residents. Even for his own daughter, he said, he wants face-to-face instruction “as soon as it's safe to do it and we know we can do it right.”
“When I make decisions in my house, I make decisions about my family, and that’s hard to do,” Null said. “When I make decisions as your superintendent, I’m making decisions for 66,000 families and 8,500 employees and all of the lives that love all of those people.”
Getting emotional, Null said he recognized the effects and feelings of delaying schools reopening. He said the remote learning is not meant to take away the option of in-person learning.
“It’s about opening school and not closing school again,” Null said.
The major concern for the district is the mandatory 14-day quarantine set by TEA for students and staff who have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Null. He said even during the summer, when about 1,500 employees are working full-time, there were points when 20% of staff were out due to sickness or quarantine.
“We could find ourselves without a staff to run a school, and that’s really the one thing that could sink us moving forward,” Null said.
Null said he fully believes schools will be open by Sept. 8. Although things may change, he said the district is in a much better place to be ready for the day students come to campus.