WACO, Texas – Waco Independent School District families will be able to choose between full-time in-person instruction and full-time remote instruction when classes resume in the fall.
The first day of school, though, could be delayed until September 8. Those changes are part of the plan that Dr. Susan Kincannon, superintendent, presented to the district’s school board during a virtual meeting held Thursday night.
At this time, the Texas Education Agency is requiring school districts to provide full-time on-campus, in-person instruction for every family that wants it. Waco ISD is also offering a full-time remote learning option after hearing from families and teachers that they are uncomfortable with campuses reopening.
In surveys conducted by the district, 67.3 percent of families and 62.5 percent of teachers said they were somewhat or very uncomfortable about schools reopening for in-person instruction.
From a range of instructional options, including both remote and in-person instruction as well as several hybrid options, 33.8 percent of families and 22.4 percent of teachers said that they would prefer fully remote instruction.
According to district officials, Waco ISD has invested about $2.5 million in devices for students this summer. The district also has several initiatives underway to expand internet access for students, including a partnership with the Waco Housing Authority to expand access at Estella Maxey Place, Kate Ross Homes and South Terrace Apartments.
Kincannon also praised the district’s curriculum and instruction staff for working through the summer to revise the district’s curriculum and better align it with state standards. Students learning remotely will access the updated curriculum through new districtwide learning management systems intended to provide a more consistent learning experience from class to class and campus to campus.
Students learning in person will also see a number of changes when they return to school. Schools will conduct daily health and temperature screenings for all staff and students. Masks will be required for all students and staff when they are in shared spaces. Additional hand sanitizing stations are being added throughout buildings. To help promote social distancing, signage will also be added, and spaces are being reconfigured.
In January, the school board adopted a calendar that set August 18 as the first day of school, with classes ending on May 27, 2021. Under the proposed calendar, which can be found at wacoisd.org/proposedcalendar, students would start school on September 8 and end on June 10, 2021. Student and staff holidays would remain the same.
The board will consider whether or not to approve the revised calendar at their next meeting on July 23.
Kincannon also discussed something that is not included in the district’s plan: a hybrid instructional option that combines both in-person and remote instruction. In the district’s surveys, a majority of both families and teachers expressed a preference for some type of hybrid option.
Citing the requirement that school districts provide full-time in-person instruction for every student whose family wants it, Kincannon said that districts cannot guarantee that a hybrid schedule would actually reduce the number of students on a campus at the same time. She also pointed to the difficulty that teachers would have simultaneously serving both fully in-person and hybrid students.
Families in Waco ISD will be able to begin selecting either in-person or remote instruction on July 27 as part of the registration process for the 2020-2021 school year. Families that have already registered will receive an email with instructions on how to make their selections through the district’s online parent portal.
Families are asked to commit to either in-person or remote instruction for at least a six-week grading period. If a family wishes to change the instructional model selected for a student, the change needs to be made at least two weeks before the start of the grading period.
Kincannon will host a virtual town hall for families to ask questions about the plan for the 2020-2021 school year at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday. Families will receive a call inviting them to join the event when it starts, and it will be conducted in both English and Spanish. A livestream of the event will also be available on Waco ISD’s Facebook and at wacoisd.org/townhall.