I hope this communication finds everyone healthy and in good spirits. Or at least as good of spirits as possible. I am keenly aware that our staff and parents are waiting to hear additional information regarding our initial plans on several critical issues surrounding the 2020-21 school year. This communication is intended to provide you a “framework” of our initial Alief ISD reentry and recovery plan. I have prepared a video that has been uploaded to our Alief ISD YouTube channel to help explain the outline of our initial framework.
With our school start date of August 6th, the Alief ISD School Board and administration are aware of the need for certain decisions to be made over the next coming weeks.
Below, you will read about several critical issues we are considering at this point. I realize I am not providing specific details yet, but please know many details are forthcoming as the state provides much-needed guidelines to school systems across Texas.
- In designing this plan, we solicited input and expertise from across Alief ISD, including principals and district leaders involved in our Re-Entry Task Force, thousands and thousands of parents and staff members who completed our district-wide survey this month and the Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Committee. We are also closely reviewing and monitoring CDC and TEA health guidelines.
- We know that local incidence and transmission of COVID-19 is increasing and evolving, and that means our plans will likely evolve, too. As I mentioned, we are providing this update knowing that families and staff are eager for preliminary information on what returning to school for the 2020-21 year will look like. As always, we promise to keep all lines of communication open as our approach evolves, and more information becomes available.
Health and Safety of our Students and Staff is our Top Priority
- As we began crafting our plan, the top priority was and will always be the health and safety of our students and staff. For that reason, the district is committing to the following measures which will serve as the backbone of a more comprehensive safety protocol:
○ Masks required for all adults, and strongly recommended for all students (details coming on this)
○ Hand hygiene (availability and frequent use of hand sanitizer)
○ Additional cleaning and disinfecting of classrooms by janitorial staff
○ Sanitizing of buses after each run
○ Schedule adjustments and related strategies to minimize traffic and gatherings (details coming on this)
○ Daily temperature checks for all staff (details coming on this)
○ Distanced seating in classrooms where able, group size limits, and decreased building capacity (details coming on this)
○ Self-screening/reporting on COVID -19 related symptoms (staff and students)
- Staff health-related matters will be addressed on an individual basis through our Human Resources Department and Risk Management departments. Employees with underlying health-related matters will work directly with our benefits team to ensure the employee’s health concerns are addressed in a meaningful way. There will be additional information on this in the near future.
- The Health and Safety Committee members in our Reentry Task Force are working through the logistics of each of these measures and will be adding more details and possibly additional measures in the coming weeks. We are also working on a detailed protocol for what happens if COVID-19 cases arise in one of our schools. For example, how buildings will be disinfected after a positive case, the communication protocols to parents, staff, etc. and the length of time before students and staff may return. We are waiting on state guidelines on this critical issue.
School Year 2020-21 Proposed Re-Entry Model for Schools: High Quality Learning Available-Face to Face or Online
- PK-12 students will receive five full days of in-person instruction, with the health and safety protocols described above.
○ Families of PK-12 students who, for health reasons, prefer to keep their children at home can opt-in to fully online instruction for the 2020-21 school year. Students will receive robust virtual instruction through either a) Alief Virtual School (powered by Pearson) or b) Alief Learns. Specific details on each parent option is coming soon.
○ There will be communications coming soon regarding campus staffing:
■ Virtual school teachers and in-person teachers
■ For teachers, teaching assignments (in-person, virtual, etc.) will be made at the campus level with support from our leadership team
■ Transportation decisions will be made as we learn more from forthcoming state guidelines
Planning continues and will incorporate the latest health, safety, and TEA guidance
- Our academic model for the 2020-21 school year, will provide a unified academic framework for Alief ISD students across in-person and online learning. Our goal is to create a seamless curriculum so that all students receive rigorous, high-quality instruction and so individual campuses can quickly transition to online learning if there is a spike in cases or a need to close a campus due to a positive case.
- A significant issue we faced in the spring was the number of students that did not have access to the internet and/or the necessary device(s) to successfully benefit from a virtual teaching environment. Our Operations Committee (technology department) is working to ensure we have the necessary devices and Internet access available so that every child in Alief ISD has access to virtual learning. As a point of reference, before August 6th, Alief ISD expects to have increased our device capacity by 30,000 devices and thousands of reliable internet Wi-Fi access hot spots for families that currently have no access to the Internet.
- As mentioned, in the near future, principals will be reaching out to teachers to provide more detailed expectations and context regarding teaching assignments and the teaching environment for each teacher (in-person or virtual). We are creating a formal process for teachers with COVID-19 related health concerns to document those concerns and work with our benefits team to address each issue accordingly.
Future Communications/Your Continued Voice and Feedback
As we attempt to design a flexible and solid plan that meets our community’s needs, I am requesting that each family member be aware of the following:
- Families, beginning Monday, June 29th, you will receive an automated call or text message asking you to select your choice for your child’s school setting/education: Would prefer your child attend school 100% in-person or 100% online. I ask that you please follow the prompts and make your selection – this information will begin providing the district much needed information regarding the desires of our families. I cannot stress enough how important it is we have as much information as possible from each parent. This will allow us to better plan for your child’s educational experience and safety precautions.
- Families, we will open an official 2020-21 “enrollment” process in early July. We will also use this process to document specific requests from each family such as technology and transportation needs. Please note that at this time, parents will commit to either in-person or online learning for your child for the school year or for an extended period of time.
As I mentioned to begin with, I know there are many questions that staff and families have. We are attempting to answer as many questions as possible as quickly and as accurately as possible.
On behalf of the Alief ISD Board, please accept our sincere appreciation for your patience, suggestions, professionalism and commitment to Alief ISD. I am honored to be a part of a great school system…I trust you are as well.