In a meeting that lasted well into the morning hours Friday, the board of trustees approved the district’s plan to give parents the choice to start in-person learning for all high school students on Sept. 28. As soon as next week, parents will be given a survey to choose whether to let their child go to in-person learning or continue virtual learning.
Members of the board debated a start date for in-person learning, wanting to give teachers and staff enough time to set up their classrooms. The recommendation was to start Sept. 21. But some board members wanted to push the date three weeks after Labor Day, which Tarrant County Health Director Vinny Taneja suggested. This way, they could monitor spikes in COVID-19 charts.
“We’ve listened to Dr. Tenja consistently since March and we’ve been unified with that approach,” board member Justin Chapa said. “I think we should continue the approach that we’ve had which is to follow the data. I think that we would be more well served to continue our cautious approach that we haven’t deviated from and move it to the 28th.”
Students will attend in-person learning according to their last name. Students A-L and M-Z will attend school twice per week and every other Friday.
“Under the guidelines, we’re supposed to be able to provide at least 40 percent of instructional time,” board member David Willbanks said. “We divide up five days a week, 40 percent is two days. This adds the extra benefit of relief for those parents who need those kids in school or the kids that really benefit from in-person instruction.”
Parents and teachers expressed their concerns about the future of the school year during the meeting. Some parents said they did not want to send their children back to school during a pandemic.
“COVID-19 is something unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” educator Brandon Lopez said. “We have somehow confused matters of science and fact with matters of politics and opinion. We all want to return but this virus, this threat, stands in the way.”
However, some parents said their children were not learning from home and want the option to be back in school.
“Virtual learning can be very difficult,” parent and teacher Laura Howard said. “We believe our children are suffering more not being in the classroom than any potential sickness. I urge you all to put fear and politics aside, let us decide what is best for our children.”
After the four-week transition, the school board will decide to fully reopen elementary and junior high schools based on district county data. High schools will continue hybrid learning.
“We have followed the doctor’s guidelines and he has been right-on,” board member Melody Fowler said. “In the scheme of things, waiting another week to be more cautious and safe might be the more prudent thing to do rather than just setting that date on the 21st.”
Reese Hunter and Emma Medrano