Thursday, August 13, 2020

Fall 2020 and COVID-19

I have read many positive and negative reactions about the GCISD Board decision to start online classes on August 17th and add the in-school option on September 8th.  I read, for example, “the Board did not listen to parents as the majority wanted in-school instruction”. That could not be further from the truth. The Board listened to parents, our teachers and our health professionals. As Dr. Ryan said at the start of our special meeting on Friday, July 31st, "we want all kids in school as soon as possible". A survey was sent to parents and employees on June 10th, and 50% of parents wanted in-school instruction only (survey results: The other half wanted either a remote or a hybrid option (online and in-school combo). We started online registration on July 15th, and parents were asked to make their selection between online and in-school instruction. On July 21st, Tarrant County released guidelines stating that districts could not offer in-school instruction until September 28th. Before our meeting on July 31st, the percentage of parents wanting in-school instruction was 60%, but many of these parents selected that option with the assumption we will start in-school instruction on September 28th. They wanted the district to start online school first as they were concerned with the spread of COVID-19 in our community. We know this because they wrote to us letting us know. Once we offered in-school instruction starting on September 8th, most parents registering selected remote instruction. Also, some parents that first selected the in-school option are now trying to switch to remote for the first nine weeks. The current split is 56% / 44% and it continues to close as more parents register their students. The bottom line is we have a split community on this issue.

Kids need to be in school, but we want to do it so it is safe to everyone, and keeps us in-school long term. We know the spread among young students is not as significant as with adults, but it is significant among adults, and we will have many adults in one place at each school. Also, there have been cases of outbreaks among high school students in other states and countries. In GCISD we have students living with at-risk adults that could bring the disease home. Those three weeks of online instruction give our community time for the spread of the disease to decrease. County health officials want the positive test rate to be close to 5% before we open schools, and it is currently at 10% (7-day average) on a downward trend. A rate in the single digits increases our chances to keep the disease away from our schools and limit disruption. The last thing we want to do is to open our schools and have to send kids home or completely close one or multiple buildings due to an outbreak. Possible health risks were seriously considered in our decision.

The three weeks of online school also gives the district time to receive all PPE ordered, get teachers familiar with COVID-19 guidelines and give them real experience in our new way of remote instruction, which will differ greatly from what we offered last spring. There will be a lot more live interaction and no more pass/fail grades. After September 8th, some teachers will have to teach on dual mode (in-school and live remote), and some teachers might need to switch from in-school to remote (if they need to quarantine). We have high expectations of our remote instruction, just like we have with our iUniversity Prep online school. Our Executive Director for iUniversity Prep, Dr. Kaye Rogers, was in charge of designing the online instruction training for all our teachers. 

We all want kids in school. We know many kids and parents struggled with our online instruction during the spring. We also know socio-emotional issues arise when students are not in school, and it is difficult for some working parents to find child care for their students before we open our schools. This was not an easy decision, and we considered all the factors I just mentioned, including the many emails and texts from parents favoring either online or in-school instruction.

Our new remote instruction will be much better, more interactive and engaging for our students than in the spring. If you feel your student struggles during the first 3 weeks of the school year, please contact your teacher or principal. We are committed to assist you during those first three weeks as we transition from remote to in-school instructions (for the parents and students that selected that option). Please leave your comments or questions below this post, or send me an email to