Close to 50 students in some Ft. Bend virtual classes

SUGAR LAND, Texas (KTRK) -- After Fort Bend ISD started in-person learning, virtual students have experienced an increase in class size.

Some parents and students told ABC13 virtual class sizes went from the 20s to 40s, with some class sizes near 50 students. This happened after the district started its latest phase last week, with secondary students returning to the classroom.

"That doesn't surprise me," Fort Bend ISD Superintendent Charles Dupre said. "We expected that. We're not talking long-term in most cases."

Dupre said the large virtual class sizes hopefully won't last much longer than a couple weeks. Ideally, Dupre said virtual class sizes would be in the 20s for secondary students. He said in-person instruction took extra resources.

"We're in the middle of a transition during a crisis," Dupre explained. "You put those two pieces together, we're going to live a few days, maybe a week or two, where things are not going to be ideal, but we also know we're going to get things balanced. We're going to get things in rhythm."

Dupre said they're trying to get more resources for online learning, including substitute teachers, but the pandemic has made it difficult.

"We are actually looking for retired teachers to come in and work part-time if necessary," Dupre said. "We just need bodies of educators and dedicated substitutes who can come in and do their very best to help our children."

Some high school students told ABC13 an issue with a lot of students in a virtual class, is there's not enough time to ask questions. Dupre admits the district may have waited too long to start the hybrid system.

"We just didn't even start soon enough," Dupre explained. "To go from 100 percent virtual to a 60-40 split was a major push by a lot of people."

Dupre said the district is trying to stay ahead of the next major hurdle. With coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and positivity rates falling, he believes more students will choose face-to-face instruction in a few months.

"We're already planning for what that'll look like come January, with the beginning of a new semester if we have a significant number of students who choose to be face-to-face," Dupre said.

Next week, Houston Independent School District starts its hybrid system. Some students will return to face-to-face learning, while others remain online.

ABC13 asked HISD officials if virtual class sizes will increase. "The district does not anticipate any significant changes in its virtual class sizes once face-to-face and virtual instruction begin next Monday, Oct. 19," HISD said in a statement.

Dupre shared some advice on how districts learn from their experiences. "Be as flexible, you got to be patient, you just have to be steadfast, and support your staff to the highest degree possible," Dupre said.

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