With the start of the 2020-21 school year less than two months away, Fort Bend ISD administrators have begun outlining for parents and teachers what form instruction may take.
At the June 15 FBISD board of trustees meeting, Superintendent Charles Dupre, along with other administrators, presented a proposed hybrid model for the upcoming school year.
Dupre said plans for the school year are still fluid and may change as the Texas Education Agency releases additional guidelines and school funding information and as logistical questions such as transportation and child care are worked through.
“The good news is, we are willing to put some stakes in the ground to start giving parents some assurance on some key elements, and to let staff have some key milestones that they can hang on to, as some of the other pieces still firm up,” Dupre said.
Stephanie Williams, FBISD’s executive director of organizational transformation, said under the proposed hybrid model, students in pre-K through sixth grade would be in school with a modified schedule Monday-Friday. Additionally, she said these students would have online learning elements to reinforce in-person instruction and to be in place in the event that school needs to pivot completely online with a resurgence of the coronavirus.
For students in seventh-12th grade, there will also likely be a combination of in-person and online learning. However, the plan for these students is still largely under development, Williams said.
The district will offer all students, regardless of grade level, the opportunity to enroll in full-time online learning because of health and safety concerns.
Furthermore, FBISD staff stressed athletics, fine arts and other extra- or co-curricular activities will be a part of the school year.
“Sometimes in crisis, the inclination is to pull back on some of those areas, but our direction has been we will not pull back,” Dupre said. “Those are vital to the engagement and success and education of our children.”
Dupre said children in pre-K through sixth grade need the most instruction support, but the district recognizes more in-person education benefits all students.
“It's better for many of our kids to be in school full time,” Dupre said. “Despite the number that are doing a great job at home with online learning, and many will choose that, we still have many who will do better by far if we have them in school. So, that's why we're really working hard to get systems in place that will allow for that.”
The district will now work on logistical questions such as transportation with limited bus capacity, staffing needs if class sizes are reduced, how campuses will be best utilized, and what adjustments to the school schedule and calendar may be needed, Dupre said.
Some of these changes, particularly those associated with staffing, may be costly, Dupre said. The board of trustees will be informed if updates to the budget are needed.
While the district has conducted surveys and focus groups with students, parents and teachers, Dupre said the district may start asking for commitments from these groups regarding their plans to return to school.
Dupre said the district is using the coronavirus pandemic to rethink how it best can serve students in an equitable manner for years to come.
“The word we are using through every step of this journey is transformation,” Dupre said. “Because we're not talking about just going back to normal, going back to how things used to be. We're talking about doing things differently in a new way.”
The next scheduled FBISD board of trustees meeting is July 20. A special meeting may be called before then to discuss further updates to the school schedule or calendar. FBISD’s first day of school is Aug. 12, a date Dupre said he does not expect to change.