Future of remote learning in 2021-22 uncertain for Tomball, Magnolia ISDs

From face masks to online learning environments, Tomball and Magnolia ISDs have dealt with changes as a result of the coronavirus pandemic since last spring. According to district officials, however, plans for the upcoming 2021-22 school year have yet to be determined.

“We feel strongly that our best educational experiences are offered in a brick-and-mortar setting,” TISD Superintendent Martha Salazar-Zamora said in an email. “However, we serve various types of learners, and the remote environment may serve them better in some cases.”

In TISD, there has been a shift toward more students participating in face-to-face learning since the start of the 2020-21 school year, as the number of students enrolled in face-to-face learning increased from 61.5% at the start of the fall semester to 80% as of January.

In January, MISD ended remote learning options for students in poor academic standing. Junior high and high school students meeting higher academic standards can still opt for virtual learning; however, they are not able to participate in extracurricular activities, and coursework will not count toward class rank.

“For some kids, the structure of [online learning] just did not work,” MISD Superintendent Todd Stephens said. “One of the things that a classroom and school does offer for our kids is that it ... brings a sense of structure to their learning activities.”

MISD saw 80.8% of students choosing in-person instruction at the start of the fall semester increase to 94% of students choosing in-person instruction as of Jan. 19. With an estimated 800 students enrolled in remote learning this spring, Stephens said the district may improve the online learning environment.

“We may want to potentially look at enhancing [the online learning environment] to try to attract some of those students who may want it online, but it’s an ongoing story of what that will look like,” Stephens said.

Statewide, it is unclear what the future holds for remote learning options. Remote options available this school year were made possible through waivers of existing state law, and how that might look post-pandemic could possibly be addressed during the ongoing legislative session, according to the Texas Education Agency, with several bills already filed pertaining to remote learning.

Additional reporting by Eva Vigh