The district has several reasons for recommending in-person learning only next year, including social and emotional learning, health reasons and the need for hands-on learning. However, things could still change before August, Superintedent Thad Roher said.
“What have we learning most in COVID? We’ve learned that situations change,” Roher said.
Only 5% of students are learning virtually in Friendswood ISD, so administrators said they think the district will be on board with in-person learning for the next school year. The district also cited local and Centers for Disease Control data, which shows that less than 1% of COVID-19 cases are transmitted in schools.
If the district decides to move forward without a virtual learning option in the fall, it will reach out to any students whose health concerns preclude them from coming back to school and work with them to find the best option, Roher said. FISD has a homebound program, he said.
Lauren Ambeau and Kim Cole—the assistant superintendent of teaching and learning and the executive director of secondary teaching and learning, respectively—presented the district’s research behind bringing all students back to the classroom in the fall. One of the biggest reasons to have students back in the classroom, they said, is that the quality of teaching and learning improves.
“Most content is best authentically taught in person,” Ambeau said.
Being in the classroom allows teachers to catch and correct when students are not doing their lessons properly and also allows for hands-on learning, Ambeau said.
Furthermore, in-person learning strengthens teacher-student and student-student relationships, including providing and receiving feedback, Cole said.
“One of the biggest challenges is centered around relationships,” Cole said, “We want teachers to be responsive and meet students where they are.”
While no action was taken at the April 12 meeting, board members voiced their opinions on bringing all students back in the fall.
“One thing I have noticed as a mother and a board member is that there is a lack of joy in the environment because teachers are at their max. I hate to see that stress on the teachers,” trustee Laura Seifert said, adding that she is in favor of bringing students to in-person learning next year.
Trustee Rebecca Hillenburg also said she is in favor of bringing students back in-person next year because she believes this is the best option for the students.
“To us, effective is not middle-of-the-road. It’s the best we can do for each individual student. Bringing kids back in the fall is the best we can do for every student and every staff member,” she said. “In the summer, we did what we thought was best for the kids. This year, we’re doing the same.”