The announcement comes just three days after the Texas Education Agency released updated guidance for the 2020-21 school year, allowing Texas school districts the option of offering online-only instruction for the first four weeks of the 2020-21 school year to curb the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, if four weeks is not sufficient for districts in regions with high coronavirus case counts, local school boards have also been afforded the ability to adopt an additional four-week transition window, for a total of eight weeks of remote-only learning.
The announcement also comes the same day that Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Dr. Umair Shah, executive director of Harris County Public Health, urged local school district superintendents to start the school year virtually—possibly until October.
The decision aligns with the district's Operational Decision Maker, which currently sits at the red level and means the majority of students should move to remote learning until the COVID-19 threat level improves. The district's Operational Decision Meter is based upon the Harris County's COVID-19 Threat Level system.
"We do appreciate the information that was shared with us today from Judge Hidalgo's office. Based upon her recommendation, and we will be starting our first four weeks of school in remote [learning]," Watson said during the town hall meeting. "And then as we continue to get recommendations, we will make that known to our families on our website and through call outs or other social media platforms."
SISD classes for the 2020-21 school year are scheduled to begin on Monday, Aug. 17. If after four weeks district officials decide an extension of the online-only learning period is not needed, in-person classes are expected to resume for students who select that option on Monday, Sept. 14.
Additionally, district officials said while students can switch from in-person learning to remote learning at anytime throughout the school year, students may only switch from remote learning to in-person learning at the end of each grading period. Families have until Aug. 3 to select either the in-person or remote learning option for the district's first grading period via an email survey.
For more information about SISD's plans for the 2020-21 school year, click here.