The topic arose at the board’s Oct. 13 meeting, when Superintendent John Kelly and the board of trustees discussed relieving teacher stress. At the beginning of the school year, teachers had a Friday of asynchronous—or fully remote—learning, which could be used to plan lessons or contact students who were not doing well in class.
At the Nov. 10 meeting, the board passed a motion lobbying the state to allow asynchronous minutes to be used for attendance purposes again. The Texas Education Agency agreed to allow districts, including PISD, to allocate days of asynchronous learning during the spring semester.
The district will be able to use 2,100 minutes of asynchronous learning for teacher planning, which equals roughly four asynchronous days during the spring 2021 semester, Kelly said. Even once the motion passed, there is still work to be done by several groups to decide how the minutes will be used, Kelly said. The board did not take this vote lightly, as it could make four in-person class days fully remote, potentially inconveniencing parents.
“I am going to vote for this, but I am torn,” trustee Jeff Barry said. “I understand the position we put the teachers in, but what I am having a hard time wrapping my head around is the position we are putting the parents in. That’s a huge concern for me.”
The board discussed how hard this change could be for working parents as well as how the decision could ease the stress teachers are feeling this school year.
“I don’t think anyone is taking [this decision] lightly,” trustee Crystal Carbone said. “We can’t keep doing what we are doing and expect different results.”
The board has not decided how the minutes will be spent next semester. If the district decides to make some class days fully remote, students will still have assignments to be completed. Teachers will be able to use this time to plan lessons as well as reach out to struggling students. The board requested parents receive an early notice once the district makes a decision about how to use the asynchronous minutes.
“I feel bad for changing this midterm, but obviously I think it is necessary for the well-being of our teachers,” Barry said.