The district is preparing for both remote learning and in-the-classroom learning as well as for a hybrid situation that would marry the two. However, what is allowed in a hybrid situation has not yet been well defined by the state, Superintendent John Kelly said.
“One of the things I want to say about the hybrid situation that a transportation person pointed out is that if we have an outbreak, we don’t know what we can do. For example, if there is an outbreak, we can’t just send the buses out the next day,” Kelly said. “A COVID[-19] outbreak of that school would not just affect the other kids in that class; it could shut down the whole campus. In those cases, we need robust distance learning.”
Teachers will need digital learning plans as robust as in-classroom lesson plans, as districts will be taking STAAR tests during the 2020-21 school year, Kelly said.
To prepare for the next year, the district is investing in iPads and laptops for the district. The board voted unanimously to approve the item, with the contingency that Superintendent Kelly will work with PISD Chief Financial Officer Jorgannie Carter when it comes time to buy the laptops. The district will likely allow students to use their own devices; however, it is easiest to make sure everyone is on the same page if they all use a district-issued device, many board members and staffers said.
“I think what parents will see is that it is easier to use the school’s device,” Kelly said.
While the district has a need to buy new technology for every student now with the pandemic, this is the direction that the district should have been moving in for some time, some mentioned. The purchase of the laptops is a four-year purchase, meaning that this decision will likely affect the district after the threat of COVID-19 has passed.
“We are never going back to what Pearland ISD was before. If this [motion] doesn’t go through, we are just doing a disservice. I think it is inevitable that we will be shutting down a school somewhere,” trustee Rebecca Decker said.
The board also discussed the potential of having a tax ratification election to help pay for the new technology over time.