Conroe ISD took the first step toward creation of a virtual-hybrid school offering remote instruction for the 2022-23 school year at an April 19 meeting of the board of trustees.

The board approved a resolution to submit an application to the Texas Education Agency for a campus number for a virtual-hybrid school. A County-District Campus Number is required to open the new schools, according to meeting materials.

“Last year we started the process, but the bill ... didn’t get passed in May, so we ended up not doing the program,” said CISD Deputy Superintendent Chris Hines, referring to state legislation to enable the formation of virtual schools.

However, when Senate Bill 15 was signed into law during a special session in September 2021, it created an option for Texas school districts to create one year of a virtual or hybrid school in 2022-23, he said.

Hines said $1.5 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds would be allocated for the program. The school would include grades 5-8 with a maximum enrollment of 60 per grade level and an application process based on attendance, engagement and academic success, Hines said. Hines said the district learned the virtual environment is beneficial for some students in 2020-21, when it conducted classes virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The dedicated program would consist of full-time teachers possibly supplemented with part-time teachers for electives, Hines said.

Through SB 15, a virtual school campus number would expire Sept. 1, 2023, after which time new legislation would be needed to continue virtual instruction, according to meeting materials.

“If we’re not able to receive it from the state, it would have to come out of our budget,” he said.

However, once approved and developed, a virtual school could be grandfathered into future programs, Hines said.

The district also named several new administrators at the April 19 meeting. James Bush, previous principal of Conroe High School’s 9th Grade Campus, was named as principal of Grand Oaks High School, replacing Chris Povich, who was named assistant superintendent for high schools in March. In addition, Gilberto Lazano, previous principal of Hope Elementary School, was named director of bilingual and ESL programs in the district, replacing Dayren Carlisle, who is now director of curriculum, instruction and assessment. A new director of athletics was named, with Chris Feris, previously athletic director at Birdville ISD in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, named to the position.