KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
August 11, 2021
By Natalie Cook Clark
The Katy ISD Board of Trustees held a Special Boarding Meeting last night and approved a virtual school learning option for kindergarten through sixth grade, the grades with ages yet to be approved for the COVID vaccination. For over two hours, parents and community members voiced opinions for or against a mask mandate. That issue was not on the Board’s agenda for discussion last night.
Katy ISD Board Approves Virtual Learning Option
The Katy ISD Board of Trustees approved an online learning option, Katy Virtual Academy (KVA) during last night’s Special Board Meeting. This learning option will be available to all Katy ISD students kindergarten through 6th grade, the age groups that have yet to be approved to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Enrollment opens online today and has a strict deadline by midnight on Tuesday, August 17. Instruction for KVA will start August 30 and run through Friday, October 15. The Board reminded the community that Texas now measures school attendance in minutes and not days so KVA students will be able to make up their delayed start.
Enrollment and additional information will be available on the KVA website today, August 11, at 10:00 a.m.
The website does state that those students who apply for the 2021-2022 temporary KVA learning option must be accepted within the enrollment window (August 11- midnight on August 17.)
The District recommends this learning option for:
Students that demonstrated academic success in a virtual setting during the 2020-2021 School Year.
Students that had an attendance of 90% or higher during the 2020-2021 School Year.
Students that did not receive disciplinary actions or experience behavioral issues last year that could be a deterrent for an online education and success.
Public Forum Turns into a Mask Debate
100 speakers were signed up to speak during the Public Hearing portion of last night’s Special Board Meeting. Not every person listed took the podium, and a few stated that their concerns were addressed during the opening power point and explanation of KVA, but for over two hours the Board heard passionate arguments for both reinstating or not reinstating a mask mandate.
The topic of masks was never discussed in the opening discussion nor set to be on the meeting’s agenda.
Many of those who spoke for masks were professionals in the Katy medical community such as doctors and nurses that stated evidence of the current medical crisis. Many stressed that local hospitals are reporting they are at capacity, and while all those hospitalizations are not always tied to COVID, many shared concerns on if medical services could handle an influx in COVID cases once students return to school.
Those who spoke against the use of masks cited their belief in their rights to choose for their families.
Gov. Abbott's Ban on Mask is Challenged
Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a ban on public mask mandates. School districts across Texas have started to challenge his order, and some are finding success.
Yesterday, judges responded to law suits against the ban in Bexar and Dallas Counties by stating that the school districts could mandate masks.
Spring ISD announced yesterday that they will be mandating masks as their students return to school. Houston ISD is set to vote on this issue later this week.
Harris County Joins the Challenge
Last night, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo (and Seven Lakes High School graduate) said that the county (which many Katy ISD schools are in) will challenge Gov. Abbott’s mask mandate.
She states that the response is because of the concerns of first responders and school leaders.
Fort Bend County Judge KP George also expressed concern stating he's hearing from many of his constituents on this issue.
"As we seek ways to help keep our children safe as they approach this coming school year, please keep in mind the health and safety of not only your children but your friends, neighbors, relatives, teachers, and others," says Judge KP George.
The Board Approved Additional Items
The Board also approved items to further support the District during this ongoing pandemic.
Those approved items include:
COVID-19 Paid Leave for Employees – The Board approved 10 additional days of paid leave for employees who are documented COVID-19 positive and require mandatory quarantining. These days are in addition to employees’ existing leave bank.
Employee and Student COVID-19 Testing Site – The Board approved expanding the employee testing site to include Katy ISD students.
Intermittent School to Home Learning Model - The Board approved providing students who are required to isolate due to COVID-19, or any other medical condition, a learning option where they can access their assignments through the Katy ISD Learning Management System (Canvas) to stay current on classroom assignments. Intermittent School to Home is not a virtual program, such as KVA, and students cannot exceed a total of 20 cumulative days.
Enrollment and Answers on KVA Open Today
Enrollment for Katy ISD’s temporary KVA learning option opened today 10:00 a.m. online. Katy parents can address questions to KVA@KATYISD.ORG or 281-234-2060.
Last year’s KVA option kept students at their home campuses. This year, it will be centrally managed through the District with no direct tie to a student’s home campus. Issues such as how special education accommodations will be met or how students will be integrated back into their home campuses have not been released at this time, but answers are expected to become available today.