Online And In-Person Education

Students at Northside Elementary work together to decorate a poster after school. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, daily classroom activities could look extremely different in the 2020-2021 school year. Schools will be allowed to resume in-person education, as of press time, however many districts will be offering online curriculum to allow students to study at home.

After weeks of consideration, the El Campo ISD school board selected a calendar for the upcoming school year in a unanimous vote at Tuesday night’s meeting.

District officials and the board discussed how to structure the 2020-2021 school year in the case of a COVID-19 outbreak in the fall. Schools will be required to meet the number of instructional minutes required by the Texas Education Agency can be met in the event schools close due to coronavirus.

“We’re trying to get to the 75,600 minutes as soon as possible,” Assistant Superintendent Dolores Trevino said.

TEA normally requires a minimum of 75,600 operational minutes, from the first to last school bell, during the school year, and will still require districts to meet this number in the fall. Since districts were unable to meet requirements for instructional minutes this year, the TEA offered district waivers for the  requirement. Both ECISD and Louise ISD applied for the waiver, and are waiting for  approval as of press time. 

The TEA released guidance on June 23 for Texas schools to follow for the 2020-2021 semester when holding in-person education. Districts cannot require students to attend class in-person and must decide whether they will provide remote learning opportunities to students. If districts do not offer online classes, students will have the option to transfer to a nearby district offering online education.

After the district closed this year on March 16 due to COVID-19, it took about one month to transition to an at-home curriculum, which began April 6. The new calendar has “flex days” that can be switched from holidays in order to make up for instructional minutes lost during the transition to at-home learning. 

In the case of a school closure, district leaders feel prepared to switch from in-person to at-home learning faster than during the 2019-2020 school year.

“Principals said they felt like we could maybe do that within two (days) at the most,” Trevino said.

The first day of school for the upcoming semester will be Aug. 12, two days earlier than in 2019, and the school year is planned to last 78,570 minutes. Christmas and spring break are planned to remain the same length as last year, with flex days falling on Oct. 16, Jan. 4, Jan. 18, Feb. 15, May 24 - 28 and June 1 - 4.

The main difference for ECISD’s 2020-2021 calendar versus the previous school year’s calendar is that Fridays will no longer be early release days.

“The addition of the 2,970 Friday instructional minutes will be ‘banked’ in the event that school closure impacts our ability to provide 75,600 instructional minutes,” according to an ECISD press release.

ECISD’s school board has not yet discussed how online education will be formated. During the closure this year, ECISD offered classes largely over websites such as Google Classroom. During summer school, the district has made materials available in paper packets and online.

Louise ISD trustees adopted a 2020-2021 calendar at their June 15 meeting.

See related story for more information on ECISD’s Tuesday board meeting.

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