KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
July 13, 2020
By Natalie Cook Clark and Jennifer Miko
Today, Katy families got their first look at “Smart Restart,” which includes phase one of the District’s plan to “Return to School.” As per the Texas Education Association (TEA) recommendations, students can return to school for in-person or remote learning. Now, Katy ISD parents need to review the District’s safety protocols and decide how their children will learn this academic year.
Katy Parents Get a Choice
Katy parents have choices about how their children will learn this academic year. In addition to in-person classes, Katy ISD will offer the Katy Virtual Academy (KVA). Students will be able to engage in two-way, real-time, live instruction. The KVA schedule will meet the minimum number of required daily minutes per the Texas Education Association (TEA), and attendance will be taken.
Two Forms of Virtual Learning
The TEA identifies two types of remote instruction, and Katy ISD will utilize each as they are most appropriate for the course.
The TEA defines instruction in two categories: synchronous and asynchronous:
Remote Synchronous Instruction: Two-way, real-time/live, virtual instruction between teachers and students when students are not on campus. In this method, the required amount of instructional time is scheduled each day, and funding is generated when attendance is recorded daily at a locally selected snapshot time. Synchronous instruction is provided through a computer or other electronic device or over the phone. The instructional method must address the required curriculum, per TEC, 28.002 Remote Asynchronous Instruction: Instruction that does not require having the instructor and student engaged at the same time. In this method, students learn from instruction that is not necessarily being delivered in-person or in real time. This type of instruction may include various forms of digital and online learning, such as prerecorded video lessons or game-based learning tasks that students complete on their own, and pre-assigned work and formative assessments made available to students on paper. The instructional method must address the required curriculum, per TEC, 28.002
When to Commit to Instruction Method
Between July 20 - August 5, parents can enroll their students in KVA. Families can elect to change to in-person classes throughout the year. Secondary students can change to and from KVA and in-person learning at the end of each six weeks grading period. Elementary students can effect changes in their instruction choice at the end of each nine-week grading period.
All KVA classes will be taught by Katy ISD instructors. The District has set up an email for specific questions regarding KVA.
Students will need dedicated technology for KVA assignments. If a student requires assistance with a device, they should contact the District.
Still So Many Questions
Many families have been waiting on information from Katy ISD to help them make decisions on how they want their student(s) to start the academic year. A big part of making this decision is knowing what a virtual education will look like.
“I read the information on the Return to School Page and it does not come close to addressing my questions,” says Dana Williams. “For example, there is no information on technical specifications. No information on apps we may need to download.”
Williams listed other questions on the Katy ISD official Facebook page and they answered.
“We are working on these details and will have more information in the coming weeks,” says Katy ISD. “This is simply Phase 1 to let our community know of the overall plan.”
Although coronavirus cases continue to rise, the government has made it clear that school will go on. Katy ISD will continue to release updated information throughout the school year.
Student Safety Guidelines
As Katy ISD prepares to reopen campuses for the 2020-21 academic year, the District has established protocols for school safety.
“For the health and safety of all students and staff – parents are required to assist their children with a daily self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms and fever before arriving to school, or boarding school transportation,” directs Katy ISD.
The District will comply with Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order and the Texas Education Association (TEA) recommendations regarding face masks. As the District receives updates from governing authorities, county health officials, and the TEA, the “Return to School” procedures and protocols detailed here will be reevaluated and updated as necessary.
For now, facial coverings will be required for students grades 4 through 12, and the District “encourages” facial coverings for Pre-K through third grade students.
The District says all students will also be encouraged to use hand sanitizer before classroom instruction begins and ends, and they will be seated “with as much separation as feasible during the instructional day.”
Staff Safety Guidelines
The District has supplied guidelines for the staff to remain safe as well. They will be required to complete a daily self-screening for symptoms prior to arriving to work, and must practice appropriate hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and social distancing. All staff will be required to wear a facial covering while in classrooms, common spaces, and when social distancing cannot occur. They will also be expected to clean and sanitize their workspace before and after use.
Alerts and Notifications if COVID-19 Case is Reported
The TEA has released comprehensive guidelines for a safe return to in-person instruction for the 2020-21 school year, but realizes that the coronavirus could impede campus activity:
“There will almost certainly be situations that necessitate temporary school closure due to positive COVID-19 cases in schools. Parents, educators, and school administrators should be prepared for this in the event that it occurs, while actively working to prevent it through prevention and mitigation practices.”
If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 among students and staff at a specific Katy ISD campus, parents and staff at the impacted campus will receive an email with an update no later than 5 p.m. on the day the COVID-19 case is reported.
“Should there be a need to temporarily close a class or school due to COVID-19, teachers will instruct virtual classes via Canvas, pending the return to class/campus,” the District website says. “Also, extracurricular and student programs will be temporarily unavailable during a campus closure.”
Katy ISD will continue to review guidance from state and local authorities, as well as the TEA and is prepared to release additional COVID-19 health and safety protocol information to District families.
The safety guidelines in place during the District’s first phase will be evaluated after the end of the first six-weeks (secondary) and nine-weeks (elementary) grading periods.
Keeping Schools Clean
Throughout the instructional day, campuses will be cleaned with an emphasis on high traffic and commonly touched areas, including door handles, restrooms and large-group transition areas. Hand sanitizer stations will be available in multiple areas throughout each campus and reminder signs encouraging proper hygiene practices will be visibly posted at multiple locations.
Bus Safety Guidelines
The District will be following the TEA’s COVID-19 guidance regarding transportation by implementing enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures between each bus trip. This will require additional time between bus trips so the District has had to adjust the start and end times for the school days.
“Every effort is made to ensure students are able to socially distance,” says the District. “TEA encourages families to drop students off, carpool, or walk with their student to school to reduce possible virus exposure on a bus,” the District reports.
All transportation staff will be required to wear facial coverings, and all students, grades K through 12, will be required to wear facial coverings upon boarding.
The District says, “Buses will be thoroughly cleaned after each bus trip, focusing on high-touch surfaces such as bus seats, steering wheels, knobs, and door handles.”
Nutrition and Food Service Protocols
“Students may be directed to eat in various locations throughout the building, including classrooms, to maximize social distancing,” says Katy ISD.
The Katy ISD Nutrition & Food Service staff have been trained to practice health and hygiene regulations and will use face shields, facial coverings and gloves when performing their job responsibilities. Katy ISD cafeterias will be cleaned and disinfected daily, and the serving and eating areas will be cleaned between uses.
Restrictions for Visitors, Volunteers, Additional Activities
Typically, parent volunteers work thousands of hours on campus each year. As part of the Phase 1 restrictions, visitors who are not essential to school operations will not be given access to the campus. These guidelines include the first day of school and during scheduled mealtimes. In addition, the school will not allow outside food or gift deliveries. Parents and volunteers who need to conduct campus business must do so via phone, virtually or make an appointment.
For more information about Katy ISD’s Smart Restart guidelines, visit their website here.