New Caney ISD reveals on-campus learning plan for 2020-21 year

New Caney ISD officials revealed the back-to-school plan at the Aug. 17 board of trustees meeting. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)
New Caney ISD officials revealed the back-to-school plan at the Aug. 17 board of trustees meeting. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)

New Caney ISD officials revealed the back-to-school plan at the Aug. 17 board of trustees meeting. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)

New Caney ISD officials revealed how students and teachers will ease back into school no earlier than Sept. 8. The district's school year began Aug. 10, but the district announced July 20 the school year would begin completely online until Sept. 8 amid the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic.

NCISD Deputy Superintendent Matt Calvert addressed the board of trustees at the Aug. 17 meeting and provided information on the plan for the year. He said parents and students will receive a student selection document the morning of Aug. 18 in which parents can choose to send their students back to school for in-person classes Sept. 8 or continue remote instruction.

"This is not a silver bullet by any means, but it's practices and procedures the district is putting in place to hopefully control the spread and keep kids in school as much as possible, if parents so choose," Calvert said.

Further details on NCISD's back-to-school plan will be published here on the district's website Aug. 18. The plan was not made available to meeting attendees on Aug. 17; however, Calvert said the district's website will be fairly comprehensive, including protocols for elementary recess, transportation, dismissal plans and lunchtimes.

Families will have until midnight Aug. 25 to respond to the survey. Families who do not respond to the survey will default to on-campus instruction, Calvert said.


"For planning purposes, it's better for us to assume more are coming and less show versus the other way around," he said.

For families who choose to send their students back to school, the student must remain in the chosen instruction method until the end of the first grading period on Oct. 19, per Texas Education Agency guidelines. Fourth-grade students and older will be required to wear masks on campus unless medically unable, per Gov. Greg Abbott's order requiring individuals 10 years old and older to wear masks.

"Fourth-grade teachers have both 9- and 10-year-olds in their room," Calvert said. "Just from an equity and enforcement standpoint, we thought it was a necessary change."

The on-campus instruction plan will also include a four-phase tier of judging the severity of the spread of the coronavirus on campus facilities. Calvert said Phase 1 is a campus that is operating under the safety guidelines and has not had cases; Phase 2 is initiated when there is one confirmed case; Phase 3 is when there is two or more confirmed cases in a classroom begins; and Phase 4 is when there is two or more confirmed cases in multiple classrooms. Further information on the positive case protocol will be released Aug. 18.

"The end all is if there's multiple cases, multiple locations, multiple facilities, and that's where we don't want to be where we're on our way to a district shutdown," he said.

Executive Director of Instruction Kristi Shofner said the district is working to improve teacher-student communication and ease elementary struggles with online learning, as elementary-age students were just introduced to online learning platforms in March. She said teachers now carve out two time slots of the day to be available via Zoom for office hours to provide students virtual tutoring and assistance.

"Our teachers at all of our elementaries from 6-7 at night have open Zooms because we know that parents who are working may not be able to get that during the day, so they have that open from 6-7 where they're live to get support, too," she said.

Board President Chad Turner said the district has been working on the back-to-school plan for months to ensure students and teachers can return to campus as safely as possible.

"I want to be overboard. I want to be a little bit better than we need to be so we can ensure that little second-grade kid has every chance to get back in school," he said. "We want our kids in school right now—today—but if we're willing to take just a two additional weeks to make sure all our plans are in place, we might be able to save the year versus making a quick decision and losing."

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated the New Caney ISD board of trustees voted July 20 to postpone in-person learning until Sept. 8. The district announced the decision July 20; the board did not vote on it.
By Kelly Schafler

Managing editor, South Houston

Kelly joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in June 2017 after majoring in print journalism and creative writing at the University of Houston. In March 2019, she transitioned to editor for the Lake Houston-Humble-Kingwood edition and began covering the Spring and Klein area as well in August 2020. In June 2021, Kelly was promoted to South Houston managing editor.