The Texas Education Agency recently released the PowerPoint presentation “Adjusting Your School Calendar for COVID 19 Response” on its website.
The proposal states that the 2020-2021 school year will likely be disrupted.
•2020-2021 is likely to include short-term disruptions to instruction and high-student absenteeism, with some students consistently physically absent.
•Building a calendar that plans for and anticipates these scenarios will help minimize disruption – short term disruptions in instruction are likely and need to be planned into the calendar.
•Calendars must also consider how to adjust for learning loss as a result of current instructional interruptions.
•Calendar revisions require substantial change management including school board adoption that requires immediate action.
Considerations listed in the proposal include a traditional academic calendar with additional intersession weeks at- tached to Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks which allows for COVID interruption and remediation opportunities.
The TEA lists the benefits of this as:
•Provides larger breaks in winter in case of COVID 19 resurgence.
•Ability to use breaks as remediation days if not needed for COVID-19.
•Flexible use of intersessions gives greater capacity for mid-year adjustments.
Also highlighted in the proposal are calendar redesign options with additional days.
Option 1: Optional Summer Learning
Purpose: Summer Enrichment
Think: 180-day traditional calendar and up to 30 days for something additional.
Option 2: Intersessional Calendar
Purpose: Targeted Remediation
Think: 180 days spaced out over the full year, with intermittent breaks for targeted remediation with a subset of students.
Option 3: Full Year Resdesign
Purpose: Rethinking the School Day
Think: A revamped 7×6 weeks calendar, daily schedule changes to increase teacher planning time and student play.
The proposal explains the next necessary steps for interested districts, such as obtaining board approval for any calendar changes, etc.
Pleasanton ISD Superintendent Dr. Matthew Mann said he was on the conference call when Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath put that proposal out, so he was not surprised.
“If you’ve seen House Bill 3, he put an allotment in there for an extended year. He’s been fooling around with this idea for a while,” said Dr. Mann.
Morath had been looking at a couple of different school districts as examples of year round school, one of the largest ones being Socorro ISD in El Paso. Mann believes the commissioner’s research on year round school is correct, especially at Title I Schools where there are many economically disadvantaged students.
“The summer slide will be pretty significant so moving and adjusting to more of a year round model, which is what he’s asking for, I think the research is there. The problem is it’s not about whether or not it’s a good idea. We think it’s a good idea if the research shows that those kids will do better. It’s the logistics of it all,” said Dr. Mann.
He said for year round school to work, everyone would need to get on board, as the schools in the area share services. Another reason is that there are parents and teachers that have students in other school districts.
“If you’re asking me if I think it’s a good educational idea, yes. I believe in the research and I agree with what he’s trying to do. I think he [Commissioner Morath] would have to get the legislature to go ahead and say, ‘This is what we’re going to move to,’ and then do that. I think it is a good idea to try it during this pandemic,” explained Mann.
Especially if the school were to close down from a second wave of the virus, noted Mann, it makes more sense to have that time built in, so you don’t lose out on so much school.
“Jourdanton ISD currently has a start date of Aug. 11, 2020, for the 2020-2021 school year,” said JISD Superintendent Theresa McAllister.
“However TEA has mentioned some alternative start and end dates to meet the needs of any and all students who may not be currently progressing educationally to the extent they may have during a ‘normal’ school year. We are dedicated to our students and their educational growth and will take all necessary steps to meet those needs.
“At this time, we have not adjusted our board approved academic calendar for the upcoming year, but it seems certain there may be some adjusting as we continue to work through this unprecedented time,” McAllister said.
Poteet ISD Superintendent Charles Camarillo said, “We will focus on wrapping up this unique year. We’ll discuss options for any summer instruction and then discuss whether we want to adjust our calendar via the options proposed in the TEA information presented. It will all depend on how soon we can bring kids back or at all this summer and how large we think the learning gaps will be upon our return.”
McMullen County ISD Superintendent Jason Jones said, “We plan to start in August, just like we always have. This could obviously change tomorrow as so many things have. Only time will tell. Our hope is to get back to normalcy very soon.”
Michelle Carroll Smith, Lytle ISD Superintendent, said, “Lytle ISD is excited about the possible flexibilities offered in the new calendar options and will work closely with school administration, faculty and parents to create a solution for the 2020-2021 school year calendar in the event our traditional calendar is not an option.”
The full proposal can be found at this link: https:// tea.texas.gov/sites/default/ files/Adjusting_ School_ Calendars.pptx