As previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper, Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen said at the July 20 HISD board meeting that the district was continuing to pursue a virtual learning option for the 2021-22 school year. At the next school board meeting Aug. 10—the first day of HISD's fall semester—Fagen announced that virtual learning would be available.
"A lot of districts across the state sort of said, 'Well, OK, virtual instruction's not going to be funded,' and so they stopped their models," Fagen said during the Aug. 10 meeting. "Humble ISD continued to move forward and worked with the Texas Education Agency and legislators in hopes of some level of a compromise because we believed that it was in the best interest of our staff and students to continue forward and not dump all of that work that we had done to create Virtual Learning 2.0. ... At the end of the day and with the support of this board—very courageous support by the way—we moved forward with offering virtual in the absence of a funding model."
Without the legislation's passage, public school districts will not receive average daily attendance funding from the state for remote learners. As a result, Fagen said HISD could face an $8 million-$10 million loss.
"We build budgets with fund balance contingencies because of emergencies—because Hurricane Harveys ... and storms like Imelda and pandemics can happen ... and overnight we have $10 million in [expenses] we didn't expect, and so we budget that way in Humble ISD because it's responsible and because we have those one-time dollars available to meet the needs of our staff, students and community," she said. "So one more time, we're doing that. ... We did it because we believed that it was best and that we believed we had the savings to weather the storm once again."
Fagen added that the district would be using its District of Innovation status to ensure virtual learners receive educational credit by pivoting from a typical 75,600-minute model to a completion model. The district will also be making changes to board policy to ensure that students who are reluctant to return to campus and are struggling with remote learning are eligible for the support and funding typically received by at-risk students.
According to the district's website, about 2,000 students have chosen virtual learning. Classes were formed based on parent requests for virtual learning that were submitted at the end of the 2020-21 school year and over the summer. As class sizes are limited, parents may place their student on the waitlist for virtual learning by clicking here.
According to the website, parents of elementary students on the waitlist will be notified of their status the week of Aug. 23, while parents of middle and high school students on the waitlist will be notified the week of Aug. 30.
In addition, the website states that students with medical conditions may qualify for homebound instruction; families with extenuating circumstances prohibiting on-campus instruction should contact their student's principal.
At the Aug. 10 meeting, Fagen also said she learned on a call with other superintendents and the Texas House Public Education Committee that a virtual learning bill may be back on the table during the state Legislature's special session. However, Fagen said regardless of the bill's fate, HISD will continue to offer virtual learning.
"I feel somewhat optimistic, but we have seen this as a very tumultuous session, and so either way, the moral of the story is this: Humble ISD always planned for offering Virtual Learning 2.0 in our district. We continue to do that; we will move it forward. If we get funding, that's great. If we don't ... that's the way that we work through it," she said.