Dupre said the reasoning for this decision was twofold: first, to protect the health and safety of students and staff, and second, to get students and teachers acclimated to online learning in the event that schools close during the year because of the coronavirus.
“Many of the decisions we have to make are not going to be popular and are not popular, but we have to operate from a place of integrity and a place of alignment according to the priorities we've established as an organization,” Dupre said during the July 13 presentation.
Dupre said there will be no extracurricular or co-curricular activities while learning is fully online. During this time, Dupre said devices and internet connectivity accommodations will be made for students in need.
Most Fort Bend ISD teachers will deliver instruction from their classrooms or a designated workspace. Teachers will have contract-free entry and exit from the building, and additional accommodations will be made for teachers with documented health risks, Dupre said.
“We're going to keep the teachers, their health and safety, at the forefront of everything we do,” Dupre said. “But we believe our students will be better served if teachers are in their classrooms or a designated workspace, protected, delivering instruction.”
While teachers work out of the school without students present, they will be learning and practicing the new health protocols.
“We want to make sure that everybody working in the building—our teachers and staff—has the opportunity to really get all the health and safety protocols well-refined and those systems working smoothly before we introduce students into the building,” Dupre said.
However, Dupre said teachers will not be solely responsible for implementing the new measures. Instead, the district will be hiring several wellness monitors who will be stationed at each campus and building to perform temperature checks and enforce social distancing, among other roles.
Dupre said the district health protocols—which include daily temperature checks, frequent hand-washing, mandatory face coverings, social distancing, limited class sizes and enhanced cleaning efforts—were developed with local pediatric physicians and mental health professionals. The district will begin a communications campaign on its safety measures in the coming week.
Despite everyone beginning the year online, parents will be asked to register their students and commit to online or in-person instruction during the week of July 22. Once in-person instruction begins, students will be held to this choice for at the least the first nine week-grading period.
Still, Dupre said it may take several weeks before the district begins phasing students back into the schools. This decision will be made based on guidance from local health officials and the CDC, he said.
“Phasing will begin at a safe time. We want it to be soon, but it may be several weeks into the school year,” Dupre said. “Phasing will also be scheduled differently at each school based on need. ... So this will be where equity comes to mind. This is not going to be a one-size-fits-all solution in our district.”
The phased return of students to school may take longer at some schools based on student enrollment numbers, teacher availability and space limitations, Dupre said. Campus bell schedules, student schedules and classroom use plans will begin to be developed the week of Aug. 3, according to the presentation.
On June 23, the Texas Education Agency released guidelines mandating school districts offer some form of on-campus instruction during the 2020-21 school year.
FBISD Trustee Dave Rosenthal said during the July 13 meeting that he hopes Gov. Greg Abbott and the TEA recognize that not all districts are the same.
“They need to keep that in mind when they do come out with their final rule-making and make sure that they don’t punish districts for trying to act responsibly when it comes to funding,” Rosenthal said.
The board of trustees also considered proposed changes to the 2020-21 school calendar, including adding intercession periods and extending the staff workday. However, due to uncertainty caused by the pandemic, the board decided to not make any formal changes to the calendar yet.
“It seems that so many things are changing and in flux and uncertain that while we might take action now, we might have to take more action in the future and in the future,” Trustee Grayle James said. “I'm not sure we have enough certainty to vote on the calendar and say, in stone, 'This is what it's going to be.'”
Dupre and district staff will host a live town hall event for parents July 15 to discuss the announcements made during this week’s board of trustees meeting. Additionally, during the board meeting scheduled for July 20, Dupre said staff will be presenting their planning for social-emotional supports and logistical operations, such as transportation.