While Dallas County health officials moved to ban on-campus, face-to-face instruction at public and private schools until after Sept. 7, Highland Park ISD has been making plans for how to make in-person instruction safer for when students are able to return to campuses.
“I think this is the best school district in the nation and one of the main ingredients is our parents, so I ask you to continue to be supportive of what we’re doing here. It’s going to take us all working together, pulling in the same direction,” HPISD board president Jim Hitzelberger said during a work session this week. “It’s frustrating for the staff. We all want our kids in these buildings as soon as possible.”
Also regarding Dallas County’s latest order, Superintendent Tom Trigg said the district got input suggesting the district challenge the county’s order and, after consulting with legal counsel, was told that action “would not be a successful endeavor at all.”
“We’re trying to keep track of the two main goals, which is to make the in-person, brick-and-mortar instruction as safe as possible while still maintaining education excellence and, at the same time, providing the very best remote virtual learning experience possible for anybody who is unable or unwilling to have their children at school,” said trustee Tom Sharpe. “There are no levers that the district has to overrule Dallas County or TEA. We are subject to their orders.”
HPISD assistant superintendent for education services Lisa Wilson said in a survey, district-wide, about 78% indicated a preference for in-person instruction, and 21% indicated a preference for remote instruction.
“There were a small number of students who said they were not returning,” Wilson added.
The district is also asking families to declare their option of in-person or remote learning by August 6.
A committee including HPISD trustees Lee Michaels and Sharpe, Trigg, Dallas County Health and Human Services Chief Epidemiologist (and HPISD parent) Dr. Wendy Chung, all school principals, and other district administrators was tasked with recommending the optimum strategy for school in the fall.
Wilson said synchronous learning, or real-time, live instruction between teachers and students will occur primarily through Google Meet. She added that the plan for the emergency closure schedule, which the district will begin the 2020-2021 school year on, includes an expectation that about 50% of instruction will occur in a synchronous format. For more specific details, view the district’s presentation.
She said the district’s plan for when educators are able to re-open schools includes such safety protocols as masks, enhanced cleaning practices, plexiglass barriers in front offices, and more.
Wilson said a plan for fall re-opening will have to be approved by the board of trustees, be submitted to the Texas Education Agency, and to Dallas County before campuses are opened for face-to-face instruction.
“We also are committed to providing the highest quality education to all students regardless of the circumstances,” Wilson said.
District officials also note that while they will post a plan, it’s subject to change.