July 9, 2020
Dear SCUC Parents and Guardians:
Many of you may have seen Commissioner of Education Mike Morath’s announcement late Tuesday about initial health and safety guidelines (link) for students attending in-person instruction in the fall. This Texas Education Agency (TEA) guidance comes two weeks after initial guidelines for students who choose to take part in remote instruction were announced (link). Guidelines for both in-person and remote instruction continue to evolve, but I thought it would be important to summarize what we know at this point and provide a timeline to our parents and staff.
What We Know at this Point
The list below is not exhaustive, but it does give parents an understanding of the big picture on how schools will work in Texas to begin the 2020-21 school year.
- Every public school in the state must offer in-person instruction for those parents who choose that option. In-person instruction must be available for every instructional day on the school calendar, with a few notable exceptions including:
- If the spread of the virus necessitates the brief closing of an entire school
- Districts have the option to go entirely to remote instruction for the first three (3) weeks of school, if they choose.
- Every parent must have the ability to choose to have their child attend school in a fully remote environment.
- Every parent can change their choice of instruction (remote or in-person) up to two weeks before the first day of instruction. The first day of school in SCUC is Thursday, August 13th; thus, changes cannot be made after Thursday, July 30th.
- Schools will be subject to Executive Orders from the Governor.
- For example, Texas is currently under Executive Order GA-29 (link) which mandates public face coverings. If school were to start today, all schools would require masks for all staff and students ages 10 and above.
- It is important to note that Executive Orders change or are updated frequently (link). SCUC and our instructional plans will need to be flexible to meet changing direction from the state.
Instructional Plan Development
SCUC ISD will operate two instructional platforms for 2020-21: in-person and remote instruction. Below is a broad overview of what these options entail. Please know that Texas school districts are receiving rapidly evolving guidance from state officials, and the rules regarding in-person and remote instruction call for a tremendous amount of local discretion. These plans will evolve based on new guidance from the state and based on parent and staff feedback.
In-person instruction. Students whose parents choose in-person instruction will be educated on campus for each instructional day on the SCUC calendar, with some exceptions. Students and staff participating in in-person instruction must undergo daily screening for the virus, and will participate in a number of health protocols designed to mitigate the spread of the virus. We know what some of these protocols will be, and our instructional design team will be developing others.
Based on the unpredictability of the spread of the virus, our in-person instructional plan must take into account the fact that some students and staff members will not be able to be on campus from time to time due to illness and/or quarantine. Thus, even students who participate in in-person instruction may have to be in a remote environment for short periods of time. These students and/or classes of students will still participate in daily instruction, but in a remote manner. Students will stay with their same teachers, continue to work on classwork, and will return to campus when their quarantine ends. This remote type of instruction differs from the total remote program discussed below.
Remote instruction. Students whose parents choose remote instruction will be educated by SCUC ISD staff but in a remote, on-line manner. Students who participate in remote instruction must stay in that remote classroom for an entire grading period (roughly nine weeks).
This remote instruction will differ markedly from the emergency remote learning plan implemented in spring 2020. Some of the differences include
- Instruction delivered by SCUC ISD staff
- Required daily student engagement in learning activities (on school calendar days)
- Potential participation in some live, synchronous instruction which would vary by grade level and subject
- The application of SCUC ISD grading guidelines that existed prior to the Covid-19 situation hit, same as in-person instruction
- Participation in state-mandated and district progress monitoring assessments, same as in-person instruction
- Current University Interscholastic League (UIL) guidelines allow students in remote instruction to participate in UIL academic, athletic and fine arts activities.
Instructional Plan Communication
Next week, SCUC ISD will launch a new webpage dedicated to our return to school in the fall. Our new parent portal will house more detailed in-person and remote instructional plans, health and safety protocols, frequently asked questions (FAQ) documents and more. Once we share that information on our website next week we will send two surveys:
Parent Survey. The parent survey will allow us to get feedback from our parents and guardians about these two instructional plans and help the further development of these options. This is also the method the district will use to obtain the parent commitment to either in-person or remote instruction for next school year. Please note that parents can change their option up until Thursday, July 30, and we will share how the process to change instructional platforms will work.
Staff Survey. We will also be sending a survey to SCUC ISD staff members to gather feedback on the plans for the fall and additional components we will need to consider. In the staff survey, we will also be asking staff members to let us know if they have any health or family situations that could potentially impact their ability to work on campus. Human Resources will follow up individually with employees to whom this applies.
Timeline as of July 9, 2020 (Subject to change)
- Remote Instruction and In-Person Plan Refinement - 7/9 to 7/12
- Draft Plan Internal Review and Revision - 7/13 to 7/14
- Release Draft Plans on SCUC ISD Website - 7/15
- Send Parent Survey - 7/16
- Send Employee Survey - 7/16
- Final day for parents to change in-person or remote instruction option for first grading period (quarter) - 7/30
- First Day of Instruction - 8/13
Behind the Scenes
We know that parents and staff may be wondering about other planning processes that are also taking place. Below are just a few.
- Access to Technology - SCUC is purchasing additional wireless hotspots and computers to aid in remote learning. More information will be provided in the parent survey.
- Learning Management System (LMS) - We are in the process of purchasing an LMS to improve the delivery of instruction, especially for our remote students. More a detailed implementation and staff development plan is forthcoming.
- Transportation - We are reviewing health protocols for buses and determining whether we might make slight changes to bus and/or school start times for additional cleaning.
- Child Nutrition - Our staff are working on how we will feed students in both instructional plans.
I think everyone understands the complexity of the situation we are all facing as we prepare for school this fall. Our goal is to develop plans that will meet the unique needs of our students and families which is causing SCUC schools and staff to do a number of very different things. I appreciate everyone’s patience and support as we work through the planning process.
Stay safe, stay strong, stay together!
Clark C. Ealy, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools