Friendswood ISD calendar, safety protocol changes to watch for in 2021

Less than 10% of students, or about 440, will be virtual learners starting Jan. 4 at Friendswood ISD. (Haley Morrison/Community Impact Newspaper)
Less than 10% of students, or about 440, will be virtual learners starting Jan. 4 at Friendswood ISD. (Haley Morrison/Community Impact Newspaper)

Less than 10% of students, or about 440, will be virtual learners starting Jan. 4 at Friendswood ISD. (Haley Morrison/Community Impact Newspaper)

At Friendswood ISD’s regular board of trustees meeting Dec. 14, district leaders reviewed recent and historical data from the See Something, Say Something tip line, discussed changes to the 2020-21 calendar and spoke of potential changes to COVID-19 protocols. They also reviewed the outcomes of FISD’s annual finance and compliance audit for fiscal year 2019-20 with its executor, accounting firm Whitley Penn.

No decisions were made about the academic calendar or safety protocols—these decisions will come after the new year. Here are some major takeaways from the Dec. 14 meeting.

See Something, Say Something

Executive Director of Safety and Operations Erich Kreiter presented data about the usage of the district’s See Something, Say Something hotline in 2019 and 2020. From Aug. 31-Dec. 10 of last year, the district saw 5% of submissions coming in related to safety concerns; during the same period in 2020, the percentage of safety concern-related submissions increased to 20%.

A quarter of submissions during the 2020 school year had to do with bullying or cyberbullying, and another 20% were about tobacco or e-cigarette usage. About 30% of submissions were labeled as “other.”

Calendar, safety protocol changes

The district plans to present a revised 2020-21 calendar in the wake of changing Texas Education Agency guidance on asynchronous days. Previously, all secondary students were going to have a total of eight remote, asynchronous learning days over the course of the rest of the year, but several of those days will be removed based on TEA allowing one asynchronous day per month.

The 2021-22 calendar is not yet complete, but it will likely be affected by this changing guidance as well, officials said.

The board meets next Jan. 12—after voting to change the date from Jan. 11—and at this time, district leaders tentatively plan to present modified COVID-19 safety protocols. One recommendation to be made, Superintendent Thad Roher said Dec. 14, could involve the shortening of the 14-day quarantine period for students and staff under some circumstances.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
guidance allows for quarantine length reduction “based on local circumstances and resources” including access to testing. If Galveston County is investigating a spread, its officials can mandate a specific quarantine period, but the district so far has conducted its own information gathering and executing of policies, Roher said Dec. 14. Therefore, any new guidelines would only apply to FISD-imposed quarantines as defined in the district’s existing protocols.

Audit results

The district’s annual finance and compliance audit for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2020, resulted in the cleanest FISD audit in a decade, officials from FISD and Whitley Penn said. The audit found no recommendations for improvement, which district leaders said was due in part to the speed at which staff adapted administrative procedures amid COVID-19 shutdowns.

The audit review showed the FY 2019-20 budget consisted of $120.5 million in assets and $149 million in liabilities, resulting in about a $28 million deficit. The deficit is due to longer-term expenses. Of the general fund, 60% came from property taxes, with 30% coming from state aid and the remaining portion from other federal, state or local sources. CARES Act funding will not be recognized in an audit until next fiscal year.

By Colleen Ferguson

Reporter, Bay Area

A native central New Yorker, Colleen worked as an editorial intern with the Cy-Fair and Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood editions of Community Impact Newspaper before joining the Bay Area team in 2020. She covers public education, higher education, business and development news in southeast Houston. Colleen graduated in 2019 from Syracuse University and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, where she worked for the university's independent student newspaper The Daily Orange. Her degrees are in journalism and Spanish language and culture. When not chasing a story, Colleen can be found petting cats and dogs, listening to podcasts, swimming or watching true crime documentaries.