Houston ISD expects to roll out online instruction March 31

Houston ISD is launching a new online instruction portal to all students beginning March 31. (Courtesy Pixabay)
Houston ISD is launching a new online instruction portal to all students beginning March 31. (Courtesy Pixabay)

Houston ISD is launching a new online instruction portal to all students beginning March 31. (Courtesy Pixabay)

Houston ISD interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan told trustees at a March 19 emergency meeting that the district will deploy a new remote instruction platform to all students beginning March 31.

Campuses remain closed, but the move to HISD at HOME, which stands for "home-based ongoing mobile education," will allow the district to meet its state obligation to provide instruction and remain eligible for funding, Lathan said.

Next week, teachers and staff will gain access to resources and tools to become familiar with the program, and an effort to contact every student to assess their access to technology and other resources will get underway. Lathan said every effort will be made to establish contact and gather information on student needs.

"We’re committed to go out and find the kid," Lathan said, noting that the district does this already with issues of truancy and other concerns. "We will continue to do that—with precautions."

Students without internet access will be able to do paper-based instruction. To that end, the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation has donated 100,000 children's books to the district to help fill the gap.

Lathan said the district will prioritize providing technology to special education students first.

District officials are still discussing exactly how teachers will develop lesson plans, assess student performance and give grades with the transition to these alternatives.

"What I’m asking is trustees and parents is, to be patient with us as we work through pushing out online learning and look at our paper-based instruction," Lathan said.

Board President Sue Deigaard said there was at least one silver lining to the transition to online instruction.

"I, for one, am really excited about the possibilities that could be achieved for our kids now that teachers are going to have some opportunities here that they didn't have before, potentially," she said.

A communication to parents was planned to go out no later than the afternoon of Friday, March 20, about the new program.

Other items addressed at the board meeting:

Staff pay: The board approved a measure allowing all staff members to be paid their usual rates despite the closure of district facilities. All district employees were covered by the resolution, including designated long-term substitute teachers assigned to a campus. However, other substitute teachers, even those who have been covering days over a long period of time, were not included if they were not classified as long-term.

Graduation and senior events: All district events through the month of April have been canceled, which includes prom events. If a directive is given to prohibit events in May, graduation ceremonies would be suspended. The district has begun initial conversations with graduation event venues about rescheduling commencement to June or July if is allowed to do so, Lathan said.

Food service: The district has distributed over 4,900 pounds of food to over 16,300 households as of March 19, Lathan said. The program will be suspended Friday, March 20, because of weather concerns, but it will resume on Monday for another week of service. After March 27, the program will continue as is if the Houston Food Bank can support it. If it cannot, the district will restrict meals provided to breakfast and lunch and will only serve families in the district.

Access to campus: Communication will go out from individual campuses allowing staff and students to return to campus to retrieve materials they would need to conduct classes, though no more than 10 people would be allowed on-site.


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