Many local public school districts, such as Spring and Klein ISDs, have opted to run the fall semester remotely until at least Sept. 11 and Sept. 9, respectively. Cy-Fair ISD has opted to delay the start of the school year from Aug. 24 to Sept. 8.
By contrast, local religious private schools, including Frassati Catholic High School and Northland Christian School, will begin the fall semester with in-person instruction Aug. 12; Providence Classical School will begin the school year with in-person instruction Aug. 24.
"We've had a number of phone calls from families who are either concerned about how their child struggled with remote learning in the spring, ... and they're worried about [their child] getting even further behind going into this school year," said Elizabeth Chavez, director of special projects, grants, foundation and business relations at Northland Christian School. "And then, we've also had some parents call because they don't have the option of staying home with their kids any longer. One couple called and said if they couldn't find a school that was open [for in-person learning] for their child, one of the adults was going to have to quit their job."
To serve these needs to the best of their abilities, Frassati Catholic High and Northland Christian are offering in-person and remote learning options for families in the upcoming 2020-21 school year.
"In education, we believe that kids learn best when they're interacting with a caring staff, and so we want our families to have the choice," said Eric Wietstruck, high school principal of Northland Christian School. "So if they want to be on campus and they feel like that's the best option for them, we've got a whole laundry list of safety protocols in place. ... And for those families who don't feel comfortable having their kids on campus, we're working on having a robust online learning experience for them."
Officials from both schools said they would be pursuing synchronous, or real-time, remote learning this fall—as opposed to asynchronous, or self-paced, remote learning—to ensure students still feel like they are part of the class even from the comfort and safety of home.
"Having an entire summer to listen to some of the successes and think about scenarios for improvement, this fall, [remote learning] is going to look different than it did in the spring," said Timothy Lienhard, director of communications and marketing for Frassati Catholic High School. "We've outfitted each of our classroom with webcams so students who are participating in remote learning will still be active in the class with students who are there in person—they'll just be interacting via Google Meet."
At Providence Classical School—with the exception of students who have health concerns within their family—all students will participate in in-person learning this fall, Headmaster Richard Halloran said.
"We are confident that due to our campus facilities with classrooms that open directly to the outside with windows and doors that let in fresh air, coupled with our enhanced cleaning procedures, physical distancing measures and our naturally small class sizes, we will be able to successfully hold in-person learning," Halloran said in an email. "Students who will be participating in remote learning will, for the most part, be participating in synchronous, live classes with their classmates."
Halloran added that Providence Classical School has added a dedicated academic liaison to its staff for the upcoming school year who will provide academic support to students and their families as they participate in remote learning.
Officials from each of the three religious private schools touted small class sizes as a benefit that allows classrooms to be more easily socially distanced. In the 2019-20 school year, Frassati Catholic High School had 300 students in grades 9-12, while Northland Christian School and Providence Classical School had 550 and 405 students in grades pre-K-12, respectively.
For the upcoming school year, Halloran said Providence Classical School has decreased the max class size for most grade levels from 16 to 13 students. Likewise, Wietstruck said Northland Christian School has identified specific capacities for each of its classrooms that allow for social distancing, while Lienhard said Frassati Catholic High School will have a maximum class size of 24-25 students, which will allow students to maintain four to six feet of social distancing at all times, depending on the classroom.
"When you're used to having classes with 12-15 kids, you can socially distance that," Wietstruck said. "I've worked in schools with larger classes, and when you have 35-40 kids in a classroom, there's no way to socially distance them."
In addition to maintaining small class sizes, officials with each of the three schools said they are taking addition safety precautions, including requiring face coverings, limiting visitors, staggering transition schedules and enhancing sanitation efforts throughout the school day and overnight.
For more information about each of the schools' safety protocols for the 2020-21 school year, click here for Frassati Catholic High School, here for Northland Christian School and here for Providence Classical School.
"All parents this year are trying to navigate difficult decisions for their children's education," Halloran said in an email. "As each child is unique, parents are finding that their concerns for their children are unique as well. Providence has seen an increase in interest from parents who are concerned that remote learning is not a good fit for their child."
Officials with each of the three private schools said openings remain for the 2020-21 school year. Those interested in enrolling can do so by contacting each school's respective admissions office. For more information about private schools in and around the Spring and Klein area, click here.