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On Monday, the MCISD school board made the decision to invest approximately $1.4 million in technology, following the announcement that all campuses in the county will start the school year at home, socially-distant.
The Mission Consolidated Independent School District had already opted to request campus closures for the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, which has spiked in the Rio Grande Valley over the last month. Last week, Hidalgo County issued orders for distance learning until Sept. 27, 2020.
This week, the Board of Trustees held a special meeting to discuss changes to the calendar, as well as approve the purchase of Chromebooks and tablets for MCISD students.
“On April 8 the Mission CISD Board of Trustees approved the purchase of Chromebooks for our current sixth through twelfth grade students,” Dr. Sharon Roberts, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, said. “On May 5, the board approved the purchase of an additional 2,129 Chromebooks for current fourth and fifth graders, so that leaves us needing devices for Pre-K three-year-olds all the way to third grade.”
Superintendent Dr. Carol Perez said the devices will be for Pre-K 3-year-olds to third grade students, and will total 3,105 Chromebooks (for first, second and third graders) and tablets appropriate for small hands (Pre-K and kindergarten students). Roberts added that they are looking at state and federal funds totalling at about $1.4 million.
“We did complete the survey and paperwork that the Texas Education Agency [TEA] asked us to complete for possibly up to 50 percent of these funds reimbursed to the district,” Roberts said.
Board member Charlie Garcia III asked about the continuation of mobile hotspots for students and teachers through summer months and the school year. Roberts said they would, and are sending out a new survey to determine which areas in the district are in need of Wi-Fi and internet services.
Dr. Perez added that TEA requires districts provide hotspots or internet services for students. She noted they chose an asynchronous model of instruction because “children learn best by using multi-sensory activities, hands-on activities and so forth.”
“Teachers are able to provide live instruction, virtually, through Google Classroom and handouts – a variety of materials, because we know that the instruction must be differentiated,” Perez said. “Children don’t learn the same way – some are auditory, some are techno-learners, some are visual learners. Now, with what we’ve learned, professional development will be geared toward those strategies. Our teachers are going to be able to use various resources available to them to utilize online instruction.”
The new calendar, approved following some discussion from the board, impacts the first day of school for students, several other dates during the year and the ending of the school year. The first day of instruction for students will now be Tuesday, September 8, 2020.
Teachers will officially begin their work on Friday, August 21, 2020. The last day of school is now set for Friday, June 4, 2021. The last day of work for teachers will now be Saturday, June 5, 2021.
“The newly adopted school calendar allows us to accomplish several things at once as we try to move forward as safely as possible,” Perez said. “We get to take advantage of some of the flexibility recently offered by the Texas Education Agency. This also gives us some much-needed additional time to try and have devices for students to work remotely on their lessons from the safety of their homes, as well as provides more time for our campus staff to implement the remote learning.”
Dr. Perez stressed the importance of student and staff safety in all the planning taking place, and that plans are continually being updated as new guidance is provided by authorities. More information regarding the instructional plan was shared with parents later that day.
“We know everyone has wanted to know what the school year will look like,” Perez said. “The constantly changing guidelines has made this process a challenge. We greatly appreciate everyone’s patience.”
Dr. Perez also said the district will continue to focus on meeting the needs of all students, while also working towards providing services as safely as possible.