Tyler ISD is considering how the coronavirus pandemic could affect the district and student success as it makes plans for the 2020-2021 school year.
The district is eyeing making changes to the traditional dates of the school year and taking steps to enhance remote learning if the need to move instruction online arises.
Administrators are taking into account the possibility of starting school earlier to make up for lost in-class time when classes were moved online in March and the possibility that a spike in COVID-19 cases could lead to classes being moved online again.
“There are many factors to consider including the need to make up lost learning time from this school year and flexibility if the governor closes school facilities again,” Superintendent Marty Crawford said in a news release. “We are evaluating all options to make the best decision for our students and staff.”
During a news conference on May 5, Gov. Greg Abbott said public schools may need to start the school year earlier than usual and increase the length of winter break.
“Whether it be the common flu, or the common flu combined with the resurgence of COVID-19, there may need to be a longer period of time in winter break, to not have students gather altogether at one time,” Abbott said.
Typically classes begin in mid-August and continue through about the first week in June of the following year. The break between fall and spring semesters typically runs from mid-December to early January.
“We are looking at suggestions from the Texas Education Agency, as well as what academic path best fits our students, families and Tyler community so that we can have successful student outcomes,” Crawford said.
The school calendar, which sets semester start and stop dates and school holidays, must be approved by the Board of Trustees before it is enacted.
“We are far away from making any decisions at this point,” Crawford said.
Tyler ISD is also making plans to expand the technology used by students and teachers.
“In the meantime, the district is redesigning our instructional technology plan not only for in-school learning but to also prepare for a more robust remote learning environment,” Crawford said.
Those plans include providing electronic devices for all students and ensuring that WiFi connectivity is available across the district’s 200 square mile through the use of hot spots at district facilities and community partner sites.
The district has purchased a new learning management system that will better connect educators with their students, the announcement said.
Other factors under review are standards for teacher instruction, student learning, feedback, grades, attendance and expectations for how long a student will need to be in a remote classroom seat online.