KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
July 8, 2020
By Natalie Cook Clark
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced guidelines for Texas schools to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Safety measures for in-person classes were outlined by the TEA, as well as the option for families to choose remote instruction for their children. Katy ISD plans to reopen and offer in-person classes this August.
On Tuesday, the Texas Education Agency released guidelines that outlined practices to allow Texas schools to open for in-person learning while still prioritizing the health and safety of students, teachers, and staff.
“Both as Commissioner and as a public school parent, my number one priority is the health and safety of our students, teachers, and staff,” said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath. “That is why the guidance laid out today will provide flexibility to both parents and districts to make decisions based on the ever-changing conditions of this public health crisis. The state is and remains committed to providing a high-quality education to all Texas students, while ensuring the health and safety of students, teachers, staff, and families.”
Katy ISD Plans for August Reopening
Maria Dipetta, Katy ISD Manager of Media Relations & Multimedia, says District families will decide how their children will start the 2020-21 academic year.
“Parents will have the opportunity to choose whether they want to send their child back to school for in-person instruction or keep them at home to engage in a virtual learning model,” says Maria Dipetta.
Later this month, parents will be asked to formally inform the District whether they want their child to participate in virtual learning. An online commitment form will be available on the Katy ISD website.
“Beginning next week, Katy ISD will launch a ‘return to schools’ web page that will include safety protocols, information about the in-person and virtual instructional models that will be available to students, and Frequently Asked Questions,” says DiPetta. “Information about how parents can inform the District of their preferred instructional model will be available on the District website during the week of July 13.”
Information on how 504’s and IEP’s will be accommodated through in-person social distancing and remote learning has yet to be released.
The TEA asks that parents remain committed to their child’s academic course throughout each grading period. Essentially, parents can monitor the state of the pandemic and change their child from remote learning to in-person or vice versa, at the completion of each grading period.
Health and Safety Procedures Enforced
All students, teachers, staff, and visitors will be screened based on Governor Abbott’s current executive order. Currently, Texas is under a mandatory executive order to wear masks. If that order remains in place, then masks will be required in schools.
The TEA will provide schools in the state with tens of thousands of personal protective equipment (PPE). They have also set up districts with TEKS-aligned learning tools to deliver remote instruction, and offered teacher training at no cost to the district.
Katy ISD School Reopening Survey
This week, Katy ISD shared the results from a survey that was sent out to KISD student families. Out of the 95,579 surveys emailed out, about one-third of the survey recipients responded. The results varied but reflected that 49% of those who responded would feel “comfortable or somewhat comfortable” with their children returning to in-person learning next month. Read more about the results.
“As with any survey, the District’s survey represents a sampling of the population surveyed, as well as a snapshot of their perspectives at the time of its administration,” says Dipetta. “The survey outcomes provided the District with baseline information on our parents’ general feelings concerning the current environment around public health, the reopening of schools, safety protocols and the type of instructional model in which they may have an interest in pursuing when schools reopen.”
Katy Families Respond to Survey Results
Katy parents continue to be divided about the structure of the upcoming school year. But most admit they will continue to follow the pandemic statistics to keep their children and families safe.
“People’s lives are more important that returning to the classroom in August,” says Kristin Morris.
“In my humble opinion, the leaders already had their decision made,” says Nassim Diaz. “The survey was a façade. My kids miss school and as of this moment we plan on sending them back, although that may change as it approaches.”
“They definitely need in-school learning,” says Sharon Sachs. “My children will be way behind if not.”
“There is no right answer to this especially in an ever-evolving situation,” says Erica Melton. “My heart goes out to those who have to make the decision on how to move forward and I thank God it isn’t my decision to make.”
“I support it,” says Sharon Veeder. “This gives every parent the option to make the best decision for their child. Good call Katy ISD! I’m worried about the workload this will put on teachers though. Do they manage both online and in class? Are there separate teachers for online learning?”
Fort Bend ISD Expresses Disappointment in Guidelines
Fort Bend ISD, where some Katy families are zoned to, expressed their disappointment in the TEA issued guidelines.
"Fort Bend ISD continues to make plans for the reopening of our schools, and remains committed to implementing plans that protect our staff and students while providing a rigorous instructional program both face-to-face and online," states FBISD. "Today's announcement from the TEA is disappointing because the guidelines, as written, does not provide local school districts with the flexibility to make decisions based on local data or community and staff values and expectations."
To read their full statement, click here.
Teachers and Staff Polled About Reopening Plans
Yesterday, Katy ISD sent out a survey to teachers and staff to collect their responses about returning to the classroom. DiPetta said the employees’ feedback will be shared with District administration and “be used to inform the fall planning process.”
Many Katy ISD employees were concerned that the survey didn’t ask them more important questions, particularly if the employee was considered high risk for the coronavirus, or had family members in their household who were high risk. Some District employees want to know if they will lose their sick days or get docked pay if they get COVID-19.
“Our survey was a joke,” said one Katy ISD employee. “Teachers are totally in the dark.”
Read more about TEA’s guidelines for offering in-person and remote learning this school year.
To see the complete results to the Katy ISD parents survey, visit their website here.