As the end of the 2019-20 school year approaches, Katy ISD administration has begun preparing how to handle the 2020-21 school year in light of the coronavirus and campus closures, Superintendent Ken Gregorski said.

However, the district is navigating an uncertain future, he said.

“If I had a crystal ball and I [could] tell what the economy is going to do and see what's heading down the rails, that'd be great,” he said.

Gregorski and KISD board of trustees President Courtney Doyle spoke about the challenges of planning for the 2020-21 school year at a Katy Area Chamber of Commerce webinar held May 18. The entire webinar is available to view online via YouTube.

Ultimately, the district’s goal is to return students to in-person instruction this fall, Gregorski and Doyle said.

“I don't think there's any substitute for the in-person instruction and how we educate kids,” Gregorski said. “It's just not the same with the online instruction.”

However, the decision to provide in-person instruction this fall is dependent on other decision makers, such as the governor’s office, the Texas Education Agency, local health authorities and county judges, Gregorski said. He does not have the full authority at this time.

“People are saying, ‘When will you decide?’” Doyle said. “As soon as the chains are off and it’s back in the control of this administration, there will be decisions made very quickly because we know the community wants to know. ... We want answers as much as you want answers, but our hands are a little bit tied as a school district.”

Learning gaps

Addressing student learning gaps that occurred during the spring semester campus closures is a priority for the district, Gregorski and Doyle said.

This fall, KISD plans to assess students to discover if any learning gaps exist, they said. How this assessment will be administered was not discussed, but Doyle said teachers have already been analyzing individual students’ achievements and helping them in any areas they may be struggling in.

Gregorski and Doyle said they trust KISD instructors and curriculum experts to be able to adjust their fall semester teaching plans to help students catch up on their learning.

Additionally, Gregorski said he was apprehensive of committing to any alternative instructional calendar for the 2020-21 school year until this fall assessment has taken place.

KISD will provide optional online educational opportunities this summer, he and Doyle said, and they suggested parents connect their children with their learning passions over the summer rather than force the students to do difficult schoolwork.

Doyle expressed confidence KISD students may not be as far behind in their schooling as some may think.

“I think because of the curriculum that Katy ISD puts forward, I think we may be a little surprised and pleased with the fact that our kids are doing very well and they're still getting the essential knowledge,” she said.

Other challenges

The district will also rely on the TEA to provide guidance on whether online learning will be an option for students whose parents are worried about sending their children back to school without a vaccination or cure for the coronavirus, Gregorski said.

He added the district is preparing for scenarios in case of a localized coronavirus outbreak or a second peak in COVID-19 cases.

However, KISD must also prepare for new students to enroll in the district this fall, Gregorski said. The district has already received paperwork for 300-400 new students to join the district on top of Katy ISD’s existing 84,000-plus student body.

“Don't be surprised if the kids come next year,” he said. “Don't be surprised if we're at 85,000 or 86,000 kids because the homes still continue to be built. ... People are coming to Katy."