School districts throughout the county are challenged but happy to offer learning opportunities for their students for at least the next month, offering some normalcy for students during the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite heavy reliance on online resources, local districts will not punish students if they lack access.
Under Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive orders, all classrooms must remain closed until May 4. Some districts are strictly online while others use more traditional methods in providing lessons to students.
The district is dedicated to ensuring every student has the connectivity to return to an educational normalcy, Superintendent Tory Hill said.
Since internet is not available to all students, Hill plans to have Sweeny’s Contacted Learning program available to every student. Through surveys, administrators determined which families are in need of assistance, he said.
“For the most part, students have been fully engaged in the program despite being new to them,” Hill said. “We have 20 to 25 elementary students that we need to get connectivity to. This is not a willingness issue, this is a connectivity issue.”
Only the elementary classes had been contacted as of Wednesday afternoon. Other classes are set to be contacted later this week, Hill said.
Administration and the teachers are discussing solutions for connectivity issues, Hill said.
“Our goal is to overcome the access issues by the end of the week,” he said. “We have looked in other providers for hotspots that match up with the family’s home. Students can also access the school WiFi even in the parking lots if that is easier.”
Assignments on the Connected Learning program offer a vast array of learning activities as well as self-assessments for students to work on weaknesses and strengths on certain subjects, Hill said.
Administration will assess a grading guideline system in order to hold students to some form of accountability, he said.
“We will have to have our students perform some mastery of content before they can move on, obviously,” Hill said. “We will work case-by-case when we finalize the guidelines.”
There will be no grades given until classes resume, Superintendent Steven Galloway said.
The district ended up mildly fortunate in the timing of the pandemic.
“The end of the third nine weeks was when spring break started,” Galloway said. “The district will judge by the grades they already have if classes do not resume.”
Based on the different curriculums for each teacher, Galloway didn’t think there was a uniform way to grade students during these times, he said.
The school district has no “umbrella” system for kids to learn under, Galloway said. Teachers have free range to teach however they are most comfortable, whether it is online or by pencil and paper, he said.
Despite the uncertainty, students are learning and teachers are doing their best, Galloway said.
“We understand every campus will be different and we hope to work together and get through this,” he said. “None of us enjoy this situation.”
The district is working on a set of grading guidelines that will only be used to help students, not hurt them, Superintendent Phil Edwards said.
While a grading program is planned to be instituted by Easter, student promotion will not rely completely on letter grades, Edwards said.
“We will divide the guidelines into four factors,” Edwards said. “One, what were their grades; two, teacher recommendations; three, what assessments the student completed in the school year; and four, any other term the district adds.”
If instituted, grading will be at a minimal level, he said.
Angleton’s Extended Learning Program was a success during its first week, Edwards said.
“It’s going really well so far,” Edwards said. “We have made contact with about 90 percent of our students. Our teachers have made great connections with our parents.”
Teachers offer online, grade-level appropriate lessons that involve the core subjects, Edwards said.
For students without access or with preference, parents can pick up paper copies of the work at their child’s campus from 9 a.m to 2 p.m., he said.
The district also began offering virtual teacher and counselor office hours for parents and students this week, he said.
Danbury ISD will use a pass/fail system for students, Superintendent Nancy Sandlin said.
Teachers previously provided feedback for assignments rather than grading them in order to offer the student one-on-one assessment through Google Classroom, Sandlin said.
No student will be punished for a lack of resources.
“We won’t penalize students if they are trying,” Sandlin said. “Not everyone in the district has the same resources and we are aware of that.”
More devices are planned to be passed out Monday, with parents having to contact the school for pickup, she said. The district is in the process of acquiring multiple hotspots for students who lack internet access, Sandlin said.
She praises the teachers who have adjusted to the unusual circumstances.
“I only have good things to say about our teachers,” Sandlin said. “Teachers are in direct contact with their students. They have touched base with us and things have gone through nicely.”
The last thing the district wants to do is overwhelm anyone with distance learning, Superintendent Danny Massey said.
“This has been a big disruptor for students, socially and emotionally,” Massey said. “We know parents aren’t teachers and everyone’s home is different. We are just asking students to try their best.”
Teachers have lectured through Google Classroom, which Massey called a huge success. Even with students still learning, he believes the classroom experience is ideal.
“We are very advantaged and advanced in technology but nothing can replace a classroom teacher,” Massey said. “Our teachers are highly-educated and highly-trained masters of instruction and they can’t be replicated.”
Grades will not be taken or applied to transcripts but, students will get feedback for their work, he said.
Massey says administration will construct a student promotion plan if the pandemic lasts past the spring.
“We are not going to hold this against our students,” Massey said.