Wednesday, Sept. 2, the Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees met virtually to discuss plans for reopening, what school may look like as Clements returns, and how that transition will be made.
The Board meeting following attendance discussed the current situation with virtual schooling. Dr. Charles Dupre, the Fort Bend ISD Superintendent, spoke first, starting with Enrollment Statistics.
“Overall in Fort Bend, we have an average of 93.2% of our students participating in online school,” Dupre said. “We are working hard on contacting the other 7% and figuring out if there’s any issues and letting them know the consequences and possible truancy cases.”
Dr. Dupre then introduced a new attendee of the meeting, Joe Anzaldua, a medical specialist who’s been giving expert advice and guiding Fort Bend along the reopening process, as well as the process across different districts and other areas of Houston.
“Every school board and district are making their own decisions,” Anzaldua said. “There’s a lot of metrics I’ve been using, hospital admissions, death rates, and more, but the most important is the percentage of positivity testing. The threshold is at 5%, when we’re at 5%, it means things are in control, and Fort Bend County is just around 5%. Another metric discusses transmission rates, which need to be under 1, and we’re at 0.91. All things are pointing towards things getting better, but things may change. The “second wave,” we don’t know if that’s coming, but it’s predicted to happen around October or November, disrupting our plans if so.”
Dupre, once acknowledging Anzaldua’s comments, went back to explaining the plan for reopening, in the process he refers to as “Fort Bend ISD Re-Imagined”
“By Wednesday, Sept. 23rd, all staff will be returning to the workplace,” Dupre said. “From the 28th to October 9th, our Elementary school students will be trained on the proper precautions, with all students who desire face-to-face returning to school by the beginning of the second term, October 12th. The precautions we’re planning on implementing include desks 45 square feet apart, all classrooms will have hand sanitizer available. Each child’s belongings will be separate, and the use of shared items will be discouraged, or cleaned between each use. 15 minutes will be allowed between classes, where students are released in staggered groups by grade levels. Visual reminders of will be hung up as well.”
Another member of the meeting, Brett Laney was asked by Dupre to speak on his comments of the plan.
“We want to ensure equitable access to our students, and a consistency across all campus levels,” Laney said. “We also wanted to ensure that transitioning between face to face goes as smoothly as possible. We’ve done extensive evaluations of our buildings and we’ve had folks go out on these proposed schedules to test them out. Student schedules are very likely to change, as well as student teacher assignments. Some face-to-face students may be housed at other campuses to account for social distancing.”
Kristin Tassin, another member of the board voices, “the prominent concerns of parents, students, and myself.”
“I just wanna make sure our fine arts directors and teachers are being weighed into the decisions as well.” Tassin said. “I know that academic and fine arts settings are different and need to be accommodated differently. I appreciate flexibility and being open about what teachers want to do. Not to mention, I don’t want to move my kid to another campus, especially if they’re part of a particular fine arts program, they can’t be separated from their groups. If a kid finds out they cant stay at their campus, they should be able to go back online.”
Dupre clarified that Tassin’s last comment would be an option, as well as elaborating on other popular concerns the Board has received.
“For high school, it’s a far less likely outcome.” Dupre said. “Moving campuses would be a last effort, our priority is not moving kids at all, as long as our resources allow it.”
Overall, the board meeting answered many of the questions parents had been asking, as well as laying out the schedule of moving face-to-face again while attempting to keep students and staff safe.
“We are navigating through all of this with care and compassion,” Dupre said. “I want our community to know we’re trying our best to listen to them and serve everyone as best as possible.”