They questioned how the district would ensure educational equity; asked for additional, detailed information about the reopening plan; requested more student and teacher opinions for determining the reopening plan; and discussed how difficult virtual learning is for some students with special needs.
After the public forum and a closed meeting session, KISD Superintendent Ken Gregorski addressed the district's reopening plan and the varying opinions across the community.
"Before us are many polarizing issues related to the reopening of schools,” he said. “Nobody has all the answers, and nothing is easy. I know for many of you the answers don’t always come quick enough or they’re not the answer you want to hear, and the anxiety is high.”
Harris County mandated that all public schools remain closed for in-person instruction through Sept. 8, and KISD will follow the local order. Though KISD sits in three counties, the district will operate under one plan that follows all three counties’ guidance and mandates, Gregorski said.
Additionally, the state said superintendents can ask district trustees to approve additional online-only instruction. Gregorski recognized the severity of the coronavirus pandemic based on local hospitalization data and positive cases as of mid-July, but said he did not have enough data yet to determine whether he will make this request to the board.
He reinforced that KISD plans to offer options for in-person or virtual instruction.
District staff discussed its plans for how it will provide virtual education via the Katy Virtual Academy and the differences between the spring online learning and the fall online learning, such as two-way, real-time live instruction as well as the attendance monitoring. Additional technology devices have been ordered for the 2020-21 school year, and the district plans to provide more training for teachers.
However, it is the district’s overall goal to return staff and students to campuses for learning, Gregorski said.
“Virtual learning is an option, but it needs to be temporary,” he said. “We can’t expect to suspend in-person instruction until [the] COVID-19 pandemic is over. ... We must have in-person instruction when the time is right.”
He said the district cannot eliminate all risk, but reopening and temporary closure decisions will be made based on data, metrics and advice from public health officials, which are developing guidelines to help school districts determine whether it is safe to open schools for in-person instruction.
He said KISD has developed and continues to update procedures for when a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case occurs at a campus, such as isolating the case and identifying those in close contact. The district will rely on employees to self-screen and rely on parents to screen their children for the coronavirus before coming to campus.
Gregorski added many staff and students are participating in in-person activities this summer, and though there have been confirmed coronavirus cases, these only occurred when safety protocols were not followed.
If parents and have questions about KISD’s plan to reopening, Gregorski encouraged them to go online to the Smart Restart webpage and submit the questions via email: ReturntoSchool@katyisd.org (general questions), KVA@katyisd.org (Katy Virtual Academy questions), SpecialEdQuestions@katyisd.org (special education-specific questions) and ReturntoWork@katyisd.org (employees).