The revised 2020-21 school year calendar keeps the school year ending prior to Memorial Day as previously planned despite moving the start date into September, Director of Administrative Services Karen Graves said Aug. 4.
“If we’re able to end by Memorial Day, I think families would probably appreciate that and staff as well," Graves said during the meeting.
With delaying the start of instruction to Sept. 8, TISD anticipates students would then begin the school year in whichever method families selected for the fall semester, either virtual or face-to-face learning. This means the choice of face-to-face learning will also move up a week from Sept. 15, the date previously stated for when in-person instruction may resume, Superintendent Martha Salazar-Zamora said Aug. 4.
“This removes the virtual-[only] option, and it allows people who wanted face-to-face [instruction] to go face to face," Salazar-Zamora said during the meeting. "Now if a family chose virtual, they can continue to have virtual [instruction], so the choices that a parent has made are still the choices that they have. This also could move up face-to-face instruction by a week.”
Parents were asked to select a learning option for their child by late July. This learning option will be the option the child pursues once classes begin Sept. 8 through the first grading period, which has been trimmed from nine weeks to seven weeks due to the late start, Salazar-Zamora said. Families may then switch learning options, if desired, at the end of the grading period.
In delaying the start of the school year and ending prior to Memorial Day, the revised calendar removes all half days of instruction for students, changes Oct. 12 and March 22 to instructional days, and changes Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day from holidays to staff development days, Graves said. This allows the district to maintain its required 187 days for teachers, five staff development days and 75,600 operational minutes for students, she said.
Teachers will also begin Aug. 11, one day later than previously planned. The added time before instruction begins Sept. 8 will enable the teachers more time to become proficient with Schoology—a new learning management system the district is rolling out for both virtual and face-to-face learning options—receive social and emotional training, and set up face-to-face classrooms following health and safety guidelines, Chief Academic Officer Amy Schindewolf said during the meeting.
On Sept. 8 when instruction begins, all teachers will return to campuses to teach either virtually or face to face, Salazar-Zamora said.
Salazar-Zamora said staff's response to a survey this summer was split 50-50 in preferring virtual or face-to-face learning. Likewise, feedback from parents on selecting a learning option for the fall was about 59% of parents preferring face-to-face instruction and 41% of parents preferring virtual instruction, she said.
"There are a large number of families that have chosen either option," Salazar-Zamora said during the meeting. “This calendar is recommending that all students begin on Sept. 8. No virtual or face-to-face [learning] before that. At that point families would have the option for what they chose."
The revised calendar totals 162 days for students with each day spanning 455 minutes, Graves said. The instructional time at some campuses may need to be extended by a few minutes each day to meet the 455 minutes; however, the revised calendar includes no bad weather days, which were previously factored into the calendar the board approved in February.
Therefore, additional days would need to be added to the end of the school year or more instructional time would need to be added to school days should the district endure a bad weather event causing school closures, such as a hurricane, Graves said.
"Families do need to know that there’s a possibility for June 1-4," Salazar-Zamora said. “It’s perhaps not optimal, but this fall is not the optimal choice for us. ... I feel confident that this [calendar] will meet the needs of our students in an unprecedented time."
Despite the later start date, Salazar-Zamora said students could be brought back to campuses for extracurricular activities, such as conditioning camps and fine arts, as early as Thursday, Aug. 6, with proper safety protocols.
"This board believes that our direct, in-person instruction is the best way to educate," Board President Michael Pratt said during the meeting. "The idea is if we stay out longer, flatten the curve, the sooner we’ll be able to get back together.”
The revised calendar is shown below. Watch the meeting below.