As previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper, SISD officials previously opted to hold the first four weeks of the 2020-21 school year remotely, as allowed by the Texas Education Agency and in accordance with recommendations from Harris County leaders. However, as that one-month period comes to a close, district officials have announced a phased approach for the roughly one third of students who previously selected in-person learning for the start of the fall semester.
"We're taking a very intentional approach with our phased timeline," Superintendent Rodney Watson said in a statement. "We need to align with TEA requirements by giving parents an on-campus option, but we want to make sure we're taking an approach that prioritizes health and safety."
According to the timeline, students who have selected the in-person learning option will return to school in the following three phases.
- Sept. 14: CASE and early childhood special education students; students in grades pre-K-2
- Sept. 21: Students in grades 3-7 and 9-10
- Sept. 28: Students in grades 8 and 11-12
While elementary and middle school students will follow a daily on-campus schedule upon return, high school students will follow a hybrid, alternating day schedule, according to a Sept. 3 district news release.
"While we continue to monitor public health conditions and recognize that Harris County still remains in the 'red,' we are encouraged that some recent data shows some positive trends for the Houston area," Watson said. "This phased approach will allow us to ease back to on-campus routines with our new safety-first COVID-19 protocols in place. Our goal is to bring all students whose families want in-person instruction by Monday, Sept. 28."
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to change on a daily basis, district officials also announced Sept. 3 that they will be allowing families more flexibility in switching between in-person and remote learning. While district officials previously said students would only be able to switch from remote learning to in-person learning at the start of a new grading period, families can now make that change at any time; however, it may take as long as two weeks for campuses to adjust accordingly. As previously announced, students will be able to switch from in-person learning to remote learning at any time.
"Our goal is to give families as much flexibility as possible during these challenging times," Watson said. "We know remote learning is not a great fit for every student, so we want to make it convenient for families to choose in-person if they prefer."
To help families make these difficult decisions, district officials also launched SISD's COVID-19 tracker Sept. 3, which will be updated nightly with confirmed coronavirus cases found among SISD students and staff. The dashboard's data can be filtered by campus and grade level and begins with the start of the 2020-21 school year, Aug. 17.
"We want to be as transparent as possible with our families and communities about any confirmed cases in our schools and facilities," Watson said. "We know this type of information is essential as families make decisions about how they want to learn."
As of Sept. 4 data, seven staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 27, and no students have tested positive thus far.