SAN ANTONIO — The Texas Education Agency is working to mitigate the impact coronavirus-related school closures could have on student success.
A presentation put together by the TEA indicates that the agency is expecting "short-term disruptions and high-student absenteeism," noting that the school closures "could have a devastating impact on student achievement."
To offset the impact, the agency proposed ideas about a modified 2020-2021 academic year, which would include an earlier start date, later end date, longer winter break and other prolonged vacations. The intersessional calendar proposed by the TEA floats the idea of remote learning and staggered in-person school attendance, along with six weeks of breaks for remedial teaching, coronavirus-related interruptions, among other things.
Plans for the upcoming semester are largely still in the works at San Antonio's largest school districts.
“At this point, I think it would be safe to say that we have contingency plans for our contingency plans,” said Aubrey Chancellor, the executive director of communications for North East Independent School District. "Right now it's just such an unprecedented time and things are changing so rapidly. So we have a number of different plans. We're not sure which one will end up going with."
She said massive changes wouldn't be made without first consulting those it impacts most: the community.
“We really would have an issue with making a unilateral decision to make a huge change like that without getting the opinion of our community, our parents," Chancellor said. There are so many things to weigh when it comes to child care. When it comes to family trips, schedules that may have been planned for a very long time.”
As it stands, NEISD students will start the 2020-2021 school year on Aug. 17.
"We are looking at other options in the way of the TEA recommendations," Chancellor said. "We know that it's important perhaps to have continuous learning during breaks so that any student who may be behind can catch up or even students who want to get ahead. So that's definitely something that we're looking at."
Northside Independent School District said it is continuing to monitor the developing health situation.
“NISD is considering various plans for altering our calendar considering the uncertainties around public health, but we have no decisions at this time,” said Barry Perez, a spokesman for NISD.
Meanwhile, San Antonio Independent School District said they have had an earlier start date for the last few years and that they are scheduled to commence the 2020-2021 school year August 10.
Chancellor said plans could change for NEISD, and likely other districts, in the coming weeks as more data is released about COVID-19 in San Antonio.
“I think over the course of the next, say, 6 to 8 weeks, I think that the picture will become very clear at that point," Chancellor said. "But right now, it's really just too early to tell.”
The TEA's presentation is simply a guidepost for school districts choosing to modify their academic calendars. It is ultimately up to the respective districts to decide how to move forward.