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.
By Matt Dulin

Matt joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2018 and is the City Editor for Houston's Inner Loop editions.


MOST RECENT

With staffing taking up the vast majority of public safety budgets, staffing may have to be one area to cut costs, officials said. (Anya Gallant/Community Impact Newspaper)
Houston police, fire departments propose slight budget increases for 2020-21 amid coronavirus downturn

However, both police and fire chiefs acknowlegded personnel cuts may be necessary.

Houston fiscal year 2020-21 budget workshops run from April 7 through May 20. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Harris County launches Small Business Economic Assistance Loan Program, begins process of creating COVID-19 relief fund

In partnership with the Houston-Galveston Area Council, Harris County launched a $10 million Small Business Economic Assistance Loan Program on April 7 to help small businesses on the road to recovery.

Texas Children’s Hospital
Texas Children’s Hospital provides stipend to employees during COVID-19

Both full-time and part-time employees will receive a check on April 10.

Live music acts such as Houston-based band The Tontons have been wiped off venue schedules amid the coronavirus outbreak. Local musicians are now eligible to apply for monetary support from the newly formed Houston Music Foundation. (Courtesy Mark C. Austin)
Newly formed Houston Music Foundation offers relief to out-of-work musicians

The fund hopes to start cutting checks as early as this week.

A temporary medical shelter is being constructed outside NRG Stadium to help house patients if area hospitals run out of capacity while treating COVID-19 cases. (Courtesy Visit Houston)
ROUNDUP: South Houston coronavirus coverage continues

Here are some notable updates from South Houston on the outbreak of coronavirus that readers may have missed.

With the transition to home-based, digital learning, Houston ISD is preparing to make adjustments to how overall grades will be assigned. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Houston ISD expected to finalize new grading policy in coming days

Under Texas Education Agency guidance, districts do not necessarily have to assign letter grades for courses.

Houston fiscal year 2020-21 budget workshops run from April 7 through May 20. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Houston city budget workshops kick off amid economic turmoil

Houston city department heads are presenting budget proposals to City Council members throughout April and May.

Sheldon State Park, along with other state parks across Texas, will temporarily close at 5 p.m. April 7. (Courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)
State parks, historic sites in the Greater Houston area close under Gov. Greg Abbott's order

Gov. Greg Abbott announced via a news release April 7 that state parks and historic sites should be temporarily closed to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Abbott's order closes all state parks and historical sites effective 5 p.m. April 7. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Gov. Abbott closes state parks, historical sites due to coronavirus concerns

Abbott said the closure is to help prevent large gatherings and strengthen social distancing.

VIDEO: Texas Tribune interview with Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar about the coronavirus's effects on the state economy

At 8 a.m. April 7, The Texas Tribune will host a live interview with Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar, conducted by Texas Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey.

The "Stay Home-Work Safe" order in Harris County also prohibits residents from playing on public playgrounds and using public basketball courts. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
REPORT: Stay-at-home order has saved an estimated 4,500 lives in Harris County so far

New data from the Rice University Kinder Instutite of Urban Research suggests social distancing efforts have been effective.