May 29, 2020
Dear SCUC Parents and Guardians:
Yesterday was the last day of school in what has become the most surreal year of schooling that any of us have ever seen. While learning remotely for the past 11 weeks is not what anyone wanted, heroes emerged all across our community: district and campus leaders who designed and rapidly deployed an emergency learning plan, technology staff who who gathered and checked out computers so that students would have access to learning, child nutrition and transportation employees that served thousands of meals a week, teachers who taught and connected with students forced into isolation from friends and classmates, and parents who in the midst of everything became teachers. Thank you everyone for sticking together and overcoming the many obstacles that we have faced.
At SCUC we have been working feverishly to finish out this school year and to develop plans for returning employees to work this summer and students to school in the fall. Below are some updates on several items of interest for our community.
High School Graduations - Lehnhoff Stadium
A group of district and campus leaders are meeting weekly to design graduation ceremonies that celebrate our graduates and their families while meeting the rules that have been established for these ceremonies by the Governor’s executive orders (link) and Texas Education Agency rules (link). We have been holding out hope to have these ceremonies indoors in late June, but that authorization has not been granted yet. Therefore, we will be holding our graduations outdoors at Lehnhoff Stadium on the following dates and times:
- Allison Steele Enhanced Learning Center - Thursday, June 25th - 8:30 p.m.
- Byron P. Steele II High School - Monday, June 29th - 8:30 p.m.
- Samuel Clemens High School - Tuesday, June 30th - 8:30 p.m.
All in-person graduation ceremonies must comply with Texas Education Agency (TEA) rules concerning screening for the virus and social distancing at the events. Our graduation committee is working through the process we will use to screen graduates and all attendees for symptoms of the virus, not allowing those who have symptoms to attend.
Additionally, because of the number of graduating seniors at our comprehensive high schools, TEA rules for attendee seating will greatly reduce the number of guests allowed to be in the stadium. Family members can sit together, but these family groups must be seated with six feet of distance between each family. Unless executive orders from the Governor and/or TEA rules change before late June, we will have to limit the number of attendees. In order for the entire senior class to graduate together at one ceremony, guest tickets for the Samuel Clemens and Byron Steele graduations will be limited to four (4) guest tickets per graduate. The only way to have additional guests attend in person would be to split the graduation ceremonies to something like graduates with last names starting with A-L at one time and M-Z right after. Since we will be live streaming the ceremonies, our committee felt the best option was to have the entire class graduate together.
The specific protocols for guest screening, entering and exiting the stadium, seating requirements, staging of the graduates and others are being finalized, and principals will communicate to graduates and parents over the next couple of weeks. These plans will include how we plan to handle inclement weather.
Nothing that we have experienced this year is ideal, and that is certainly the case with commencement ceremonies. Thanks so much for your patience as we continue to work to provide graduation ceremonies that are as close to a traditional graduation as possible.
Return to Work Protocols for Employees
As the Governor gradually reopens Texas for work, more employees will be allowed to return to working on site in SCUC. A task force of district leaders have taken state guidance and developed a multi-phase plan to transition from remote to on-site work in June and July. This group will be working with the instructional task force, described below, to develop disinfecting, screening and distancing protocols for the additional staff and students who will return in August. The summer Return to Work plan will be shared with employees within the next week.
Instructional Design for 2020-21
The biggest question on everyone’s mind is what will school look like next fall. This is something that state leaders and school administrators across the nation are grappling with right now. Quite simply, the design of school next year will be determined by what we are allowed to do by the Governor’s executive orders and TEA directives that will be in place in August. At this point, no one knows what those rules will look like in August.
Thus, district leaders in SCUC and in every district must now begin developing several plans for a number of different scenarios. An instructional design task force consisting of district and campus administrators and teacher leaders are beginning to put plans together that address at least these scenarios below:
- Face-to-face instruction in a more traditional type model.
- Blended instruction for situations where the number of students actually allowed in school buildings might be limited. Some students would be learning on campus with others at home learning through remote instruction. These groups of students would alternate between in person and remote instruction.
- Dual in-person and remote instruction platforms where some to most students might come to school and others might be instructed at home for shorter or longer periods of time.
- A more robust remote learning platform for campuses that might have to close for a short period of time due to outbreaks of the virus.
SCUC is focused on the safety of our students and staff, and all instructional plans will keep those concerns in the forefront of our decision making. More options and further details will be designed over the summer as districts receive more direction on what will be allowed next school year.
Part of our planning process is determining the number of students we will be serving next school year. Updating your student’s registration is important every year, but it is even more vital this year. If you have not done so, please go online to complete your student’s school registration so that we can ensure we are appropriately staffed for next year (link).
Modified 2020-21 School Calendar
District leaders have been discussing with the school board the need to add additional instructional time next school year. Combining additional days and half days of instruction with updated instructional planning documents will help address learning gaps for students. The administration will be recommending a calendar that starts three days earlier (Thursday, August 13, 2020) and ends one day later (Thursday, May 27, 2021). Some professional development days during the school year will be changed to full days or half days of instruction. The plan is to take an updated 2020-21 school calendar recommendation to the school board for their consideration and approval on Tuesday, June 2, 2020.
The response of our staff, parents, community and our students to this ever evolving situation has been inspiring. Eventually, our society will return to a new, slightly different state of normalcy. All of us will look back at Spring 2020 with different memories, but I am convinced that each of us will remember how we individually, as families and as a community overcame this adversity. Thank you for the part you have played in helping us move forward.
Stay safe, stay strong, stay together!
Clark C. Ealy, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools