Montgomery ISD will take a phased approach to reopening schools this fall, the board of trustees announced at the Aug. 4 board of trustees meeting. This is a reversal from its last proposal on July 22, where district officials opted for remote learning until Sept. 8.

“There is a desire for us to return to schools as quickly as possible,” MISD Superintendent Heath Morrison said, while also acknowledging the health concerns parents, faculty and students may have.

The plan is to allow pre-K and kindergarten students, students receiving special education services, students identified with dyslexia who are close to completing the program, select career and technical education classes and organizations to return Aug. 17. The hours on campus will be staggered.

Students in sixth to ninth grade will return Aug. 31. Remote learning will continue for all students who choose not to come back to campus.

Students without internet access will also be invited to return to campus Aug. 17 because multiple families have requested access to computers and the district does not currently have enough devices or hot spots to meet their needs, officials said.

Survey results from 6,820 responses out of about 9,000 show 373 students do not have internet and 1,833 are in need of a laptop—three times what the district distributed in spring.

“That was much higher than anticipated,” said Amy Bubsy, MISD’s interim director of information technology. “We didn’t even get all of our responses back, so it’s probably more [like] four times the need.”

District officials said additional laptops have been ordered—the board approved joining a collective purchasing agreement for a variety of technology devices—but the orders may not arrive for four to 10 weeks. Further, hot spots have been requested.

The current solution is to offer flexible instructional hours, request that families share devices and distribute the inventory as it arrives, officials said.

“We will eventually get to a place where we can service those needs; we’re just not quite there yet,” Busby said.

On Aug. 13-14, the district will finalize details of transportation and individual student needs for students enrolled in special education, MISD officials said.

The district also established the COVID Rapid Response team, which will aid teachers and staff in responding to situations as they arise in schools and the community. The team will assist if and when an MISD employee is diagnosed or exposed to COVID-19 and ensure proper guidelines are followed.

For instance, teachers and staff who were potentially exposed to the virus will also need to quarantine for 14 days as well as following other procedures outlined by the district before returning to work.

A full video of the meeting can be found here.