Fort Bend ISD will continue online learning for rest of school year; graduation postponed to July

Fort Bend ISD discussed finishing the 2019-20 school year online and postponing graduation ceremonies at its April 13 board of trustees meeting. (Claire Shoop/Community Impact Newspaper)
Fort Bend ISD discussed finishing the 2019-20 school year online and postponing graduation ceremonies at its April 13 board of trustees meeting. (Claire Shoop/Community Impact Newspaper)

Fort Bend ISD discussed finishing the 2019-20 school year online and postponing graduation ceremonies at its April 13 board of trustees meeting. (Claire Shoop/Community Impact Newspaper)

Updated April 14, 5:02 p.m.

Fort Bend ISD will continue online learning for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, according to a news release from the district.

Superintendent Charles Dupre made the announcement in a message to the FBISD community.

"There are several factors we took into consideration, with safety and security being our top priority – we know that, even if Governor Abbott allows schools to reopen as of May 4, many families and staff members will be reluctant to return to school and work to avoid potential exposure to the virus," Dupre's message reads in part. "Additionally, because there are only three weeks remaining of instruction after May 4, we believe it will be even more disruptive to our students, staff and teachers to ask them to pivot back into our buildings and the traditional classroom environment."

Additionally, in a video message to FBISD seniors that was posted to Twitter after the April 13 board of trustees meeting, Dupre confirmed that in-person graduations would be suspended until July.

"I just want you to understand that we are keeping you, the class of 2020, at the forefront of our decision making because we do empathize and have a true heart for where you are and the concerns that have right now," Dupre said in the video. "We are committed to end your time in Fort Bend ISD in the best way possible."

Continue reading for Community Impact Newspaper's coverage of the April 13 meeting, where the board discussed graduation, continuing online learning and other end-of-the-year activities.

Posted April 13, 10:23 p.m.

The Fort Bend ISD board of trustees, along with district staff, discussed the potential effect of the coronavirus on the remainder of the 2019-20 school year at the April 13 board meeting.

Superintendent Charles Dupre said a final decision about end-of-year activities and continuing online learning could come in the next few days.

Here are three topics Dupre and the board discussed:

Keeping schools closed and finishing the year with online learning

Dupre said at this time he is considering keeping school facilities closed and completing the year using online learning.

“At this time I am leaning heavily toward the idea that we need to go ahead very soon and announce closure for the rest of the year so our parents know, our staff knows, and we're able to move forward with completing this year online,” he said.

In-person school activities have been canceled until at least May 4. Dupre said there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding whether Gov. Greg Abbott will open the state up in May or if local stay-at-home orders will remain in place.

Additionally, Dupre said district staff has worked hard to implement online learning and switching back to face-to-face for the last three weeks of the year would be a lot of change for both students and teachers.

“We've just implemented online learning,” Dupre said. “And, we believe that is going well, not perfectly—though we knew it wasn't going to be perfect. But, our whole system and every teacher has just been retooled to teach in a new way. So I have a hard time grasping the fact that we could potentially come back May 4 with only three weeks of class left and totally retool again for the last three weeks of school.”

Dupre said if in-person classes are suspended for the rest of the year, district staff can focus on planning for when students do return to campus.

Postponing graduation ceremonies until July

At the April 13 meeting, Dupre proposed canceling May graduations and planning in-person graduation ceremonies for July, given that public gatherings are safe and permitted then.

Dupre said families and students who participated in district focus groups have expressed the importance of in-person graduations.

“Overwhelmingly, the sentiment was that we need to go ahead and plan a live graduation experience, even if it is much later, such as late July,” Dupre said. “They also agreed that ... there just wasn't much value in the idea of attempting to put on a virtual graduation in May.”

The district has reserved the Smart Financial Centre in Sugar Land for three consecutive days in July for the graduation ceremonies, Dupre said. If in-person graduation still cannot happen at that time, Dupre said the district will plan a virtual ceremony.

FBISD will confer degrees on the last day of school so graduating seniors have them for their post-secondary institutions.

Prom and other special events

The district also discussed how other special end of the year events—especially those recognizing seniors—will be handled.

“[FBISD seniors] are facing the very real emotion, if you will, and just struggle with the fact that their senior year has been totally truncated,” Dupre said. “They're sitting at home doing their school, they're gonna finish school, but they're not getting to experience their proms, their last events, their last competitions, all the things that students look forward to for years and years.”

Dupre said most prom venues have already canceled scheduled events. Going forward, prom tickets will be refunded and planning a future prom in July, August or even December, will be up to the students on each individual campus.

The district along with individual campuses will work out specifics on any potential award ceremonies for seniors or the opportunity for them to walk the campus and say goodbyes.

Dupre, along with other members of the board, expressed the importance of students in all grade levels having closure to this unusual school year. Additionally, Dupre said schools will facilitate locker clean out days so students can safely retrieve any personal belongings that may have been left on campuses.

By Claire Shoop

Reporter, Northwest Austin

Claire joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2019 as the reporter for the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition and in December 2021 moved to Austin to become the reporter for the Northwest Austin edition. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in May 2019 where she studied journalism, government and Arabic. While in school, Claire was a fellow for The Texas Tribune, worked for the student newspaper, The Daily Texan, and spent a semester in Washington, D.C. She enjoys playing cards with her family and listening to the Boss, Bruce Springsteen.