With its most recent waivers extending virtual learning by four weeks set to expire on Sunday, the Sharyland school district will open its doors to 1,518 students on Monday.
That’s the expected number of students who will show up as part of the Sharyland Parent Choice Plan where each family may choose whether their child learns on-campus or remotely for the remainder of the school year.
According to Sharyland Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction, Pam Montalvo, a survey sent out to Sharyland families last month found that only 15% of those parents who responded would let their kids return to campus.
“That represents a total of 1,518 students out of our 9,747-student population,” Montalvo said. “The number keeps changing as we’re getting more parents changing their minds and calling us to let us know they’re not going through with letting their kids return to campus, but as of Monday that’s what the numbers look like.”
Montalvo informed the district board of trustees of this development during a Monday school board workshop. As part of the Parent Choice Plan, should a parent decide to let their child learn on campus, the district will follow CDC guidelines for schools that include providing PPE to all students and staff while enforcing physical distancing and daily deep cleaning of every building.
Parents who decide to continue with remote learning can do so as the district continues to provide an education fully aligned to the instruction being delivered on campus.
Students taking remote learning will take prescheduled, real-time instruction and two to four hours of virtual interaction with teachers and fellow students throughout the day.
The rest of the school day will consist of independent practice and ongoing support, according to the district.
School board Trustee Ricky Longoria noted at the workshop that the 15% rate is a decrease from results of a survey sent out last August that showed that only 30 percent of Sharyland parents would want their child to return to campus.
The most recent survey had a 60% response rate, Montalvo said. Those who didn’t participate in the online survey that was available in parent’s skyward accounts were marked as a response to opt out of letting their child go back to campus.
“If students show up on Monday whose parents did not inform us they would be back on campus, they will not be allowed in,” Montalvo said. “We haven’t planned for them to come to campus and the campus principal will work with them to see when they can return to campus.”
Montalvo noted that these numbers could change and that parents will have an option to fill out a new survey during every six-week progress periods to determine if they change their minds as to whether or not their child will go back to campus.
“We’re trying to keep the community safe, parents have to be part of this process,” Longoria said of the response rate. “They can’t forget they have a shared responsibility on this. That may sound harsh but it’s the reality of where we’re at. We’re doing our best, they should too.”
Since last week, a total of 302 at-risk students and children of district employees have been back on campus as part of a transition period to fulfill a requirement by the Texas Education Agency to have some students on campus during the four-week waiver period, Montalvo said.
At the Monday meeting, the district also unveiled the SISD COVID-19 Exclusion and Readmittance Guidelines to be used by school nurses in each campus if there’s a suspected case of COVID-19.
Those from moderate to high risk of having come into contact with the disease such as showing symptoms or have been in contact with someone suspected of or confirmed of having the disease will not be allowed entry into any district facilities and must self-isolate for 10 days. They must provide either a negative COVID-19 test result or a doctor’s note explaining they were diagnosed with something that turned out to not be COVID-19 to be allowed back on campus.
District Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Belinda Gorena presented this plan to board members along with a school nurse and called it “aggressive.”
“It’s strict but maybe if we were stricter at the beginning, we wouldn’t be in this situation,” Gorena said.
District Superintendent Dr. Maria M. Vidaurri announced that a public hearing will be held next Monday to discuss a mid-year incentive plan.
As part of this plan, all SISD staff members who participate in a COVID-19 online training set for Monday, Nov. 2 at 4:15 p.m. will be eligible for a combined $1.2 million in one-time bonuses.
The district’s 713 teachers, librarians, nurses and athletic trainers would all potentially earn $1,000 for completing the survey while 648 auxiliary, clerical staff and administrators working for the district would earn $750.
“We have 98 percent of our students engaged and committed to their education because of our teachers and staff who have adapted into this new normal of remote learning, learning new skills and perfecting them. This was a learning curve for them as much as for us,” Vidaurri said. “At the end of the day, everyone did an excellent job of exemplifying the excellence that is our tradition, so the board is reviewing a way to incentivize our staff.”