Houston-area school districts' fall 2020 plans

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Thursday, September 24, 2020
Survey shows back to school in flux for millions
WATCH: Ted Oberg heard from more than 125 school districts that are home to about 2.5 million students. Here's a look at their back-to-school plans.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As the start of school approaches, school districts across the state are releasing their plans for back-to-school amid the coronavirus pandemic.

After most schools closed this past spring when COVID-19 first began to spread in Texas, the question arose whether students would be back on campus come fall.

While some districts are reopening campuses, others are sticking to online learning for the time being. Here's a breakdown of Houston-area district plans:

Aldine ISD

  • Virtual learning from home for at least the first three weeks of the 2020-2021 school year.
  • All Aldine ISD teachers reporting to campuses this fall, whether they are supporting traditional on-campus learning or virtual classes
  • Final assignments will be based on student enrollment and the number of students who selected each instructional model
  • Parents must fill out a commitment form, and decide if their students will participate in in-person or online learning after the first three weeks
  • Form must have been filled out by July 19
  • Any family who does not have internet access or devices for distance-learning may request a device from the school district
Aldine ISD Superintendent LaTonya Goffney describes the district's virtual learning plan.

Alief ISD

  • Alief ISD will be 100% virtual learning for at least the first three weeks
  • Administrators have joined other districts in asking the TEA to allow districts to extend the virtual learning for all students through at least the first grading period (9 weeks)
  • First day of school will be Thursday, August 6
Superintendent HD Chambers shares what the district is doing for the 2020 school year amid the pandemic.

Alvin ISD

  • All students will begin virtual/online instruction on Aug. 24
  • Students will begin a phased reintroduction to on-campus learning, depending on their grade-level on Aug. 31
  • Students who've chosen in-person instruction will resume full time on-campus learning on Sept. 14
  • Must have enrolled child in virtual learning by Aug. 7
  • Students and staff will be asked to maintain recommended social distance when feasible
  • Daily temperature checks of all students at school will not be performed due to the expectation of daily self evaluations by parents or guardians
  • All students will be trained on proper hand washing techniques and participate in scheduled hand-washing times throughout the day
  • All students should maintain recommended social distancing from others, and if this is not possible face covering should be used

  • All students (age-appropriate) are encouraged to use non-medical grade face masks, covering nose and mouth, while in indoor common spaces
  • All employees shall use non-medical grade face masks, covering nose and mouth, while in indoor common spaces
  • All employees shall maintain recommended social distancing from others, and if this is not possible, face covering must be used
  • Students utilizing bus transportation will be required to utilize face coverings
  • Water fountains will not be accessible, students should bring water to school
  • When permitted, student gatherings will be held outdoors
  • Deep cleaning will occur each day after school hours
  • Athletics and extracurricular activities will be conducted in alignment with UIL guidelines

Clear Creek ISD

  • Online and in-person learning plans to choose from
  • Clear Creek ISD plans to open schools virtually on Aug. 24
    • Small groups of students will be welcomed back for in-person beginning Aug. 31
    • The district plans to open schools to all students on Sept. 14
  • In-person plan requires all students, staff and visitors to wear face masks when classes resume
  • Classrooms reorganized to maximize space as much as possible
  • Adding 10 minutes to the school day to allow more time for safety protocols
  • Parents encouraged to take their children to school. However, buses will be cleaned between each run
  • Clear Connections Online Learning Program delivers curriculum to students by teachers in real-time as well as some options for self-paced instruction
  • Students must have a reliable internet connection and access to a computer during school days Monday- Friday in order to qualify for online learning
  • Parents will be asked to administer COVID-19 health assessment daily before sending kids to school
  • No outside food delivery will be accepted and no visitors will be allowed in the cafeteria
Superintendent Greg Smith explains the district's plans for the fall 2020 school year amid the pandemic.

Conroe ISD

  • CISD will offer two options for students in the fall: an in-person option and a remote learning option
  • Parents and guardians must select their student's option by July 28 but will be allowed to change after the first nine weeks
  • Remote students may also take classes that require some in-person classes, such as band or physical education. Superintendent Curtis Null said parents must be able to provide transportation for these activities
  • First day of school is Aug. 12
  • Traditional In-Person Instruction is scheduled to begin no earlier than Sept. 8

Cy-Fair ISD

During Cy-Fair ISD's second special-called meeting of the month on July 21, the board unanimously voted to postpone the start of the 2020-21 school year from Aug. 24 to Sept. 8. This move also pushes the last day of student instruction back from May 27 to June 3.

  • Choose between in-person and virtual instruction options
  • Parents have until Aug. 10 to make a final decision
  • Providing Chromebook devices for all students in the district as well as 4G LTE broadband wireless hot spots for students without internet access at home

Fort Bend ISD

  • All Fort Bend ISD schools will start the 2020-2021 academic year with virtual learning on Aug. 17. Online enrollment verification is from July 22 to Aug. 3. In the verification process, parents can indicate what their needs for transportation, connectivity, devices and childcare are. These responses will be used to help provide devices and hotspots.
  • "Learning Centers" will be available at select schools where students can participate in online learning from a safe environment with adult supervision present. Priority will be given to local first responders and those with a need for internet connectivity and adult supervision during the day.
  • No in-person extracurricular activities, including athletics and fine arts, will occur during the period of virtual learning
  • Schools will phase in face-to-face instruction with small groups
  • All staff required to complete a daily health assessment prior to reporting to work
  • Face coverings will be required upon returning to campuses
  • Staff and visitors will be required to undergo a non-contact temperature check
  • Classrooms will utilize a ratio of 45 square feet per student
Fort Bend ISD's deputy superintendent Diana Sayavedra shares the district's plan for back to school amid the pandemic.

Friendswood ISD

  • Students will be required to enroll in virtual learning beginning July 21 and no later than Aug. 5. Parents should have received an enrollment link on July 21.
  • Before and after school activities for elementary clubs and groups, such as student council or choir, will be suspended until Sept. 7. At that time, a decision on beginning these activities will be finalized.
  • FISD will make changes to perfect attendance and exemptions policies to encourage students who are sick to stay home.
  • Students and staff will be required to wear face coverings inside of all Friendswood ISD facilities where social distancing is not possible, including arrival, dismissal, the cafeteria when not eating and common areas when transitioning to classes.
  • All bus riders will be required to wear a face covering.
  • Individual needs for face coverings for students or staff will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
  • FISD has a color-coded system, which include the district's plan if COVID-19 transmission escalates. Level 1 - Blue means no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among students or staff. Level 2 - Green means there are minimal confirmed cases, but people with close contact to those cases will be advised to quarantine for 14 days. Affected areas will be closed off for deep cleaning, and communications will be sent out via Skylert. Level 3 - Orange means there is a moderate number of confirmed cases in a classroom (over 10%) and on a campus/facility (over 5%). It also means there is evidence of community spread and students and staff will move to virtual learning. Activities will be canceled, and parents will be notified. Level 4 - Red means there is a substantial transmission of COVID-19 across multiple campuses. Facilities will be closed for a maximum period of five days, the time allowed by the TEA. Learning will move to virtual operations while facilities are deep cleaned. Activities will be canceled. Parents will be notified.

Goose Creek CISD

  • Delaying the start of school from Aug. 13 to Sept. 8
  • Students will receive instruction virtually for three weeks
  • Hybrid back-to-school model, which will include face-to-face instruction, upon returning
  • Limiting class sizes to no more than 15 students, along with social distancing on campuses and enforcing the use of masks
  • Parents can opt for their children to receive 100 percent virtual at-home learning

Hitchcock ISD

  • Begin 100% online learning Aug. 17
  • Plan to do online learning for eight weeks with a hopeful return of students on Oct. 14
  • Students will be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities following the guidelines established by the TEA and UIL
  • Students that do not have a device at home will be provided a Chromebook
  • District will begin providing 3 meals per day per child on Aug. 17, and there will be community pick-up points as well as pick-up points from some schools

Houston ISD

  • Students will begin the school year virtually on Sept. 8
  • Online instruction will continue for six weeks through Oct. 16, and face-to-face instruction will begin on Oct. 19
  • Parents have until Sept. 25 to choose how their children should learn for the remainder of the school year. Parents can select face-to-face learning or choose to continue with virtual learning. That selection will start Oct. 19. You can make your choice through the HISD Connect Parent Portal.
  • Families will be allowed to update their choices after six weeks or according to the latest health data
  • District working on providing better technology and internet hotspots for families in need
  • During virtual learning, the district will provide curbside meals for select schools with enrollment of 60 percent or more students on free and reduced lunches
  • Once face-to-face instruction resumes, all students and teachers will be required to wear a mask, wash their hands frequently and adhere to social distancing requirements
  • As long as classes are virtual, there won't be any workouts or sports at HISD schools
How ready is HISD for the upcoming school year? HISD interim superintendent Grenita Lathan explains.

Humble ISD

  • Aug. 11: All students begin the year online, and online learning remains an option for all students based on parent choice throughout 2020-2021
  • Aug. 17: In-person classes resume for self-contained special education students whose parents chose on campus
  • Aug. 24: In-person classes resume for elementary students whose parents chose on campus, and in-person classes resume on A/B schedule for middle and high school students whose parents chose on campus
  • Sept. 21: Middle and high school students whose parents chose on campus will be able to return full time. This date changed from Oct. 12 after COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations dropped in the area and students were facing difficulty with learning on an A/B schedule, according to Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen.
  • All governor's orders will be followed including current face mask order
  • Teachers and staff will emphasize frequent hand washing; covering a cough or sneeze; not touching one's eyes, nose, and mouth; and other health and safety measures

Katy ISD

  • School is scheduled to begin Aug. 19
  • In-person learning with Katy virtual academy begins Aug. 19
  • Students taking virtual classes must sign a commitment form by Aug. 5
  • Students 4th - 12th grade are required to wear masks
  • Students riding the bus will need to wear masks
  • Before and after every class, students will use hand sanitizer and also wipe down their desks with a provided disinfecting wipe
  • Additional time will be added between bus routes for sanitizing

KIPP Public Charter Schools

  • Two options: 100% online learning, 100% in-person learning
  • Online learning requires students to log in and complete daily work assignments online and/or log into a virtual classroom at a specific time to get synchronous instruction from a teacher
  • KIPP can loan technology to families for the entire school year if necessary
  • Meals will be available and can be picked up curbside similar to the summer meal program
  • Everyone on campuses, including school staff and students pre-K-3-12th grade, must wear masks daily
  • Students need to bring their own school supplies that will not be shared with other children
  • Considering starting school virtually for the first three weeks and/or adding a delay to the start to the school year and extending the school year further into June
  • Deadline for the first nine-week instruction style commitment was July 22

Klein ISD

  • Klein ISD will begin the 2020-21 school year for all students on Tuesday, September 8, 2020, with the parent choice of Klein On-Campus or Klein Online, based on the enrollment verification completed prior to July 31.

Lamar CISD

  • Offering both on-campus and virtual instruction during the 2020-2021 school year
  • Commitment form to make decision on instruction style must be completed by August 9
  • All students and staff will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms regularly and individuals who present with symptoms will be separated and sent home
  • The use of face coverings will be determined by health recommendations associated with three levels of community transmission: substantial (red: masks required), moderate (yellow: masks required) and minimal (green: masks optional). The disease activity level will be updated and communicated to families each week
  • Class size will depend on the number of students who choose to participate in on-campus instruction. Desks or tables will be socially distanced as much as instructionally possible
  • Students requiring transportation will sit no more than two students per seat and are required to wear a face covering while on the bus
  • Virtual instruction schedule will require students to participate in asynchronous (online without real-time interaction) and synchronous (real-time) online learning
  • Families can indicate if they need additional devices for online learning on the commitment form
  • Students who participate in virtual instruction will have access to "grab and go" meals

La Porte ISD

  • Offering two different instructional delivery formats for the 2020-2021 school year: face-to-face instruction and virtual learning
  • Begin school as scheduled on August 19 with virtual instruction delivered by teachers who will work from their campus classrooms
  • Students will return to school on September 8 for face-to-face or virtual learning
  • All facilities will be sanitized daily, and the district will follow social distancing guidelines whenever possible
  • All students and staff will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms regularly and individuals who present with symptoms will be separated and sent home
  • Students will wear face coverings while at school, however, it may be impractical for students to wear masks while participating in non-UIL athletic or other extra-curricular activities
  • Staff must wear a face covering while at work
  • Desks or tables will be socially distanced as much as instructionally possible
  • Highly recommended that parents/guardians bring students to school
  • Limited regular education seats on buses (16-26 available seats per bus)

Magnolia ISD

  • Magnolia ISD superintendent Todd Stephens said in-person learning has been pushed back until at least after Labor Day. The change comes after superintendents in Montgomery County received a letter from the Montgomery County Public Health District and the Montgomery County Hospital District asking school districts to delay in-person learning until after Sept. 7, Community Impact reports.
  • Parents and guardians must select the learning option, either face-to-face or virtual, for their children by July 29
  • Parents will have the opportunity to change their decision after the first nine weeks of school
  • All students over age 10 will be required to wear a face mask while attending school and will be responsible for providing their own face mask. However, MISD will have disposable masks available if needed
  • Hand sanitizer will be available in each class; desks will be spread out when possible; and indoor assemblies will be canceled
  • Students without access to required devices to complete online assignments can request them from MISD

Needville ISD

  • Begin class Aug. 24 and will have a choice of attending class in person or virtually
  • Trustees approved $620,000 for the purchase of Chromebooks for each student in the district
  • Students who attend class in person will be required to wear masks, and teachers will wear face shields
  • If the UIL allows extra-curricular activities, Needville ISD students will participate

New Caney

  • The 2020-2021 school year will start off virtually. Teachers are expected to return to campus on Aug. 3.
  • Superintendent Kenn Franklin said the district decided to offer online learning for the first few weeks of school until at least Sept. 8 at the recommendation of Montgomery County health officials.
  • More information on remote learning programs will be posted on NCISD's website.
  • Online classes for students will begin Aug. 10, however, as of July 20, the University of Interscholastic League has not delayed extracurricular activities.
  • More information on the next reopening steps will be provided at the district's next board meeting Aug. 17.

Pasadena ISD

  • Aug. 10 - Teachers report to campus
  • Aug. 18 - First day for ALL students virtually
  • Sept. 8 - Face-to-Face students report to campus
  • Students and staff will be required to wear a face covering and maintain a distance of three to six feet when feasible
  • District offering in-person class (starting Sept. 8) and asynchronous online learning options for all students

Pearland ISD

  • In-person and online options
  • Synchronous and asynchronous courses
  • Registration opens on July 22 and closes on August 5
  • District will provide leased electronic devices for all students whose parents request them for online learning
  • Students are required to attend at least 90% of the days a course is offered (with some exceptions) to receive credit and be promoted
  • All parents are responsible for ensuring that a daily self-screening of each student occurs prior to coming to school or boarding school transportation
  • All students ages 10 and older (age and health exceptions) are required to use non-medical grade face coverings, covering nose and mouth. Per CDC recommendations, face masks for students over the age of 2 (except for exemptions) are strongly encouraged
  • All employees shall use, at a minimum, non-medical grade face coverings, covering nose and mouth
  • Signage for proper hygiene practices will be posted throughout the buildings, in the restrooms and at the entrances
  • Classrooms will be arranged to provide the maximum social distancing possible within the constraints presented by the facility and the functions within that classroom
  • Students utilizing bus transportation will be required to utilize face coverings
  • All families, with the ability to do so, encouraged to transport students to and from school
  • Athletics and extracurricular activities will be conducted in alignment with UIL guidelines

Splendora ISD

  • The district said it will provide students and their parents with these options: on-site and remote learning.
  • The first day of school has been moved from Aug. 12 to Aug. 17 after the board approved the change at a meeting. The district said it has a staggered plan to bring back students on-site, but all students will begin learning on Aug. 17. For more information on the changes, read the letter from the superintendent.

Spring Branch ISD

  • Spring Branch ISD plans to begin remote learning for all students on Aug. 24
  • In-person learning for SBISD families who choose for students to physically return to class is scheduled for Sept. 8
  • The elementary school instructional day will be extended by five minutes
  • SBISD families should have completed a Learning Model Selection Form online or submitted a paper form at the student's campus by Wednesday, July 22. The final deadline is midnight July 31.

Spring ISD

  • Options for the upcoming school year include the Safety First Hybrid Model, Empowered Learning At-Home and Daily On-Campus Learning.
  • A commitment form will be sent via email to all families by the end of July.
Watch to hear what Spring ISD superintendent Dr. Rodney Watson is saying about the district's virtual learning plan.

Tomball ISD

  • First day of school pushed back to Sept. 8
  • Students will start either face-to-face or online, depending on what the family chose
  • Revised school calendar trims down first grading period from nine weeks to seven weeks, but keeps the school year ending before Memorial Day in 2021
  • Teachers expected to start on Aug. 11
  • Mandate face coverings while at school and on the bus
  • Social distancing where possible, such as 3-6 feet between desks, plexiglass shields for staff who may be interacting with the public or working closely within 3-6 feet of students, and staggered transition times
  • Parents and students must attest they have self-screened for COVID-19 symptoms before students arrive on school grounds or on a school bus
  • Daily classroom cleaning, wipe down of commonly touched areas and increased frequency of cleaning those high-touch areas, such as door knobs
  • Additional cleaning when students are outside the classroom at lunch or another activity
  • Increase education about good hygiene, including posting signage and talking to students about hand washing and other practices

Texas Education Agency Guidelines

On July 8, the TEA released its guidelines for students to return to school.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said despite what he described as a "challenging" upcoming budget year, parents will have more choices than normal this year as they decide which school setting is best for their children, which includes the following:

  • Daily on-campus learning will be available to all parents who would like their students to learn in school each day.
  • In addition, all parents will have the option to choose remote learning for their children, initially, or at any point as the year progresses.
  • Parents who choose remote instruction for their students may be asked to commit to remote instruction for a full grading period (e.g. six or nine weeks), but will not have to make that commitment more than two weeks in advance, so they can make a decision based on the latest public health information.
  • Health and safety procedures will be in place to support student and teacher safety.
  • Some health procedures are mandated for every school in the state. For example, all students, teachers, staff, and visitors coming to campus must be screened before being allowed on campus. To align with Gov. Greg Abbott's most recent executive order, and assuming that order is still in place, masks will be required while in school buildings, with certain exceptions made, as noted in the order. Schools will also be required to follow any forthcoming executive orders issued by the governor.
  • Additional health procedures are recommended for every school that can reasonably implement those procedures.
  • Districts have the option to establish a phased-in return to on-campus instruction for up to the first three weeks of the school year, to ensure all appropriate health and safety procedures are fully in place.

TEA is also providing school systems with the following:

  • Reimbursement for extra COVID-19-related expenses incurred during the 2019-20 school year.
  • Tens of millions of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies provided to school systems at no cost to Texas schools.
  • Free online, TEKS-aligned learning tools to deliver remote instruction.
  • Teacher training provided at no cost to the school system.
  • Statewide efforts to help bridge the digital divide for students at home, along with other ongoing support.

13 Investigates surveys 125 Texas school districts about what fall will bring

From who will be required to wear a face mask to how transportation and UIL participation will be handled, 13 Investigates reached out to nearly every school district in Texas to see what their expectations are for the upcoming school year.

We heard from more than 125 school districts that are home to about 2.5 million students. Each either responded to our survey or provided a statement. We scoured public statements and websites for those that didn't reply to give you the most complete back-to-school picture possible.

With the Texas Education Agency releasing its 2020-21 public health guidelines last week, some districts, like the state's largest - Houston ISD - are still finalizing their plans and will respond to our survey later this week.

Of those who responded to our survey, 84 percent say they expect more than half their students to return to in-person learning on the first day of class; 90 percent expect to offer a mix of in-person and virtual learning.

WATCH: ABC13's 'COVID-19 and Our Schools' town hall

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED: In the video above, ABC13 took YOUR questions to school leaders and health experts on how districts are preparing amid COVID-19, and how they intend to address concerns about student access to the internet, computers and other technology.

SEE ALSO: Local superintendents describe plan if and when a campus outbreak should happen

Local superintendents share the districts' plans if a campus had a COVID-19 breakout