CEDAR PARK, Texas — State leaders are pushing to put some normalcy back into the lives of young Texans amid the coronavirus pandemic. Child care centers can reopen immediately. Meanwhile, camps and youth sports can resume by the end of the month. Gov. Greg Abbott is also giving school districts the option to offer summer school in person. But after weeks of online learning, one school district is not expecting to change any time soon.
What You Need To Know
- Summer schools in Texas can start June 1
- Schools can choose to continue online learning
- Even if they do open, they cannot require students attend in person
School district leaders are allowed to reopen campuses on June 1 for summer school, but according to guidance from the Texas Education Agency, they cannot require attendance in person. Students who have to attend summer school as a condition to move on the next grade would still need to satisfy requirements virtually. The guidance encourages district leaders to consider their “local context” when deciding whether to offer summer school on campus.
Despite the go-ahead from state leaders, officials at the Leander Independent School District say they will be sticking with virtual learning this summer. Jennifer Freeman, director of intervention services at the district, told Spectrum News they typically start planning for summer school and developing the curriculum as early as January.
“That safety idea is first and foremost on our minds moving forward. We would not want to put anyone at risk and feel that if we can offer a robust virtual experience, that's probably the safest way for us to deliver that instruction at this time,” Freeman said.
Since closures will continue some summer programs may be altered or canceled at Leander ISD. Freeman said they scaled back on the number of original credit courses.
“Our decisions right now have really kind of focused on, you know, how can we keep kids feeling connected and trying to prevent summer slide,” Freeman said.
Guidance for summer school includes, but is not limited to:
- Students can gather with teachers or staff in groups of no more than 11 individuals
- All instruction should be held in spaces that allow desks to be placed at least six feet apart
- Whenever possible and developmentally appropriate, there should be no group or pairs
- Students must not be brought together in assemblies, field trips, or other group gatherings outside of their class group, unless the distancing of 30 feet between groups can be maintained.
- School gyms, weight rooms, and indoor workout facilities are to remain closed
State leaders suggest prioritizing the ability of on-campus summer school for students with significant academic gaps, students with disabilities, students experiencing homelessness, and students learning English. Freeman said Leander ISD officials are still making the determination of whether or not to reopen classrooms in July for a small group of students with specific and involved needs.
“We understand that sometimes it can be difficult to recreate face-to-face instruction in a virtual environment, especially when there's therapeutic type of practices involved,” Freeman said.
Online classes have been going well for Vista Ridge High School sophomore Walker Moody. But what the 16-year-old misses the most is football and the camaraderie that comes with the sport.
“It's a lot different because normally we'd have the people around us like, supporting each other and everything, but now it's not really the same,” Moody said.
The Cedar Park teen is still pulling his weight for the team by doing two-a-days in his garage. Moody said he has been attending virtual meetings with his teams and going over plays. But he is pumped now that the University Interscholastic League will allow for limited strength and conditioning on campuses in early June.
“It's exciting to get back there and go and just see the people again and work out again with them. Even though it's limited, it's still fun,” Moody said.
Meanwhile, the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) has argued that the state’s protocols for reopening buildings do not go far enough and that June 1 is too early. They are pushing to also equip educators with supplies to better protect them and their students.
“I don't think in our schools currently have the resources and the capacity to truly meet the needs of all of our students,” Noel Candelaria, TSTA president said.
Still some parents are putting their trust in their local districts to make the right decision.
“When it comes down to it, the district has been really open about things and they're also taking feedback from some of the parents as well,” parent Jason Moody said.