As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise in Texas, the start of the 2020-21 school year remains in limbo.
Brownwood ISD Superintendent Dr. Joe Young spoke with KOXE Thursday and discussed the most recent plan for the upcoming school year, which was released Monday.
Among the highlights of the 23-page plan, both face-to-face and remote learning will be options this year. Registration for returning students opens next week and the option to select face-to-face or remote learning will be included.
“We’re going to ask parents choose by July 29 so that we can make plans,” Young said. “You have until Aug. 5 to change your mind, but after Aug. 5 we ask that you stick with that at least for a grading cycle because logistically we’re not going to have teachers do both. We’re going to have different teachers for each of those things.
“Schools have been giving remote instruction all spring so we’ve come up with a plan that offers both worlds. We’re going to have school on Aug. 19 whether we’re in our buildings or not. There are two different options and parents can choose what is best for your situation. There’s a lot of different scenarios about why one would be better than another and we’re not judging either way. Everyone needs to make their own health decision and own decision for their family and we certainly understand that.”
Parents who have already registered their children as part of the transfer process or new student registration will be emailed a link next week that allows them to choose face-to-face or remote learning.
The remote learning for the upcoming school year will be much different than what students experienced at the conclusion of the 2019-20 year.
“This is not the remote instruction that we did in the spring of last year,” Young said. “As far as instruction goes, that wasn’t our best effort and we feel like this is going to be a lot better. You’re going to have tests along the way, you’re going to have daily assignments, you’re going to have projects, which is very different from what we did in the spring, so parents need to be ready for that.”
Further elaborating on the remote learning option, Young said, “Regardless of the mode you choose, there is going to be daily attendance. If you choose remote instruction you’ll be given details on how this works. Every single day you’re going to have to log in and engage with the teacher through assignments, through discussion, through engagement just like you were in the classroom. If you’re not doing that on a daily basis then you’ll be counted absent. The 90 percent rule, which states to get credit for a class or for a year you have to be present 90 percent of the time, the state is still following that guideline.”
Young – the Region 14 Superintendent of the Year – also added that daily live teacher support will be available to help with school work for remote students. Free meals will also be available to remote students, who will pick them up at Brownwood High School. Further information on the breakfast and lunch plans, and other frequently asked questions, will be revealed in the near future.
For students who attend classes in person, masks will be required for students in the fourth grade and up and are recommended for all students.
“Right now the entire state is under the Governor’s executive order so we’re following that because that’s the rule at this point,” Young said. “That rule says that anyone 10 and above should wear a mask when it’s not possible to social distance. We are saying fourth grade and above because some fourth graders are 9 years old at the beginning and turn 10 during the year. It’s also a clean break because our intermediate school starts at fourth.
“For third grade and below masks are optional just as they are in the public sector at this point. We do ask that you bring a mask and we do ask that you wear it if you’re in grades Pre-K and up, but it’s definitely not a requirement.”
Young stated there are two to three pages in the recently released plan that discuss mask exceptions. Among those, according to Young, include, “if you can social distance, masks are not required. When you’re at recess you don’t have to wear a mark, when you’re at lunch you don’t have to wear a mask. But when you transition in the hallways and are potentially bumping up against somebody or go to the restroom where there may be other people in close proximity, we are going to ask that you wear a mask at that point.”
Young stated masks will be available at each campus, likely disposable, and they won’t last long.
“As part of their school supply list, get a mask they can take home everyday and it becomes theirs so that they can wash that,” Young said.
Another part of the plan Young discussed was transportation.
“We will provide transportation and we’re working on the logistics of that,” Young said. “If we can offer it district wide like we’ve been doing, that’s the best case scenario. With sanitation needs and spacing kids out on the bus, it may not be possible to run bus routes like we’ve done in the past. We’re going to do as much as we can. We have numbers from our bus burn that show where most of our riders come from and to which campuses. We’re trying to do that in that order so that we hit most kids that need rides.”
Also, only essential visitors will be permitted on campus in the fall semester.
“Visitors will not be allowed into the building unless they are essential for at least the fall semester,” Young said. “Those that are essential will be screened as they come into the building.
We will also have pre-screening criteria every day for every kid and every teacher that they need to complete, this is a TEA mandate.”
Each campus will serve breakfast and lunch, but the rules will vary by campus.
“We’re looking at campus specific logistics as far as where do you enter the building, where do you get breakfast, is it in the cafeteria, the classroom, is it grab and go,” Young said. “We’re going to be in the cafeteria as much as possible but keep with the social distancing. We’ll be keeping groups of kids together, so we know students who have contact with each other, which kids sit at the same table.”
Young also added the maintenance crew has added new cleaning protocols to ensure deep cleansing techniques are followed for the safety of students and staff.
Extracurricular activities are currently slated to begin Monday, Aug. 3. At the moment, Brownwood ISD is intending to proceed as originally planned, but those plans could be altered. Among current speculation is the idea that the UIL may opt to swap athletic seasons, or push all sports to the spring.
“That is interesting but I don’t see that happening in the UIL,” Young said. “You have too many kids at the lower classifications, like Brownwood and lower, that do all kinds of sports and to flip them and do those kinds of things, then cancel some, that’s just not right and doesn’t really work well. If the UIL was even to consider that I think maybe it would be the 6A level where you have kids that are more specialized and coaches that are more specialized. At our level I don’t see that working.”