Trustees explore a phased-in approach to in-person learning
Leander ISD administrators are recommending to the LISD board that it considers extending virtual learning by an additional four weeks until Oct. 6 in order to facilitate a phased opening of in-person instruction and mitigate COVID-19 risks.
At its agenda review board meeting on Aug. 20, the LISD Board of Trustees considered phased reopening between Sept. 8 – Oct. 6. It will vote on the agenda item “Consider Extending Virtual Learning Through Phased Opening” this week during its board meeting on Thursday.
At this week’s LISD board meeting on Aug. 27, the LISD administration is to vote on the options for a phased-in approach in accordance with recommendations from local health departments.
“Based upon a test positivity rate over 10% and the number of cases throughout Travis and Williamson Counties, Leander ISD recommends a phased opening of the school district over the course of the school weeks extending from September 8 to October 6, 2020,” the LISD agenda information reads.
“This phased opening approach allows schools to initially reduce populations of students within buildings in order to manage student contact, ensure strong procedures, and manage student needs. Increasing the number of students in stages would also allow schools to monitor potential health risks over time. If an increase in positive cases amongst students or staff took place during this time period, this phased opening approach would allow Leander ISD to adjust the phased opening if needed,” the information states.
LISD principals studied the needs of their stakeholders and contributed on Aug. 18 to help design the phased opening plan. A recommendation for this phased opening was shared with the LISD Board of Trustees last week.
From LISD on Aug. 21:
With the health and safety of students and staff as the top priority, Trustees considered the district’s proposal to petition the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for an additional four weeks of virtual learning. This will allow the district to begin phasing in students that wish to return to in-person learning Sept. 8 in accordance with recommendations from local health departments.
Under TEA guidelines, districts can start the year virtually for four weeks, plus an additional four weeks with Board approval. The district’s plan would have groups of students that have chosen to return to in-person learning returning to campuses Sept. 8 while Virtual Empowered Learning continues for those that choose that option. The group of highest-need students includes:
- Students served in Special Education
- Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st, 6th and 9th grades
- Students without home internet access
- Children of staff members
As we work within the guidelines of TEA’s directions and gauge community spread of the coronavirus, other groups of students that opt for in-person learning may return to campus. All students that chose in-person instruction would return by Oct. 5.
This step-by-step process will allow the district to:
- Open and stay open
- Reduce student in-person numbers (minimizing person-to-person contact, minimizing spread)
- Implement and refine safety protocols
- Align with public health guidelines
- Honor family choice (families who choose Virtual Empowered Learning can continue learning from home)
“Our staff has done a phenomenal job with our virtual empowered learning as we navigate through these challenging times,” Board President Trish Bode said. “A phased reopening as recommended by our public health officials does provide the opportunity for teachers and staff to apply health guidelines with a smaller group of students, which will help pave the way as we move to more on-campus instruction as certain benchmarks are reached.”
The district is planning extensively to provide extensive safety measures once in-person learning resumes on our campuses. Cleaning procedures, contact tracing, facility enhancements, and protective equipment are integral parts of the district’s COVID prevention and response plans.
During the meeting, Trustees discussed staff health and safety, the rising positivity rate of COVID-19 in the two counties, and the possibility of keeping all students in remote learning if viral spread does not subside.
“We will start, continuously improve, fight for every kid, and never give up,” Superintendent Bruce Gearing, Ed.D. said. “Our goal is to open and stay open as long as possible, prioritizing and working to minimize the health risks for our teachers, staff, students, and families.”