Spring ISD details planning process to reopen schools in 2020-21

Spring ISD is mapping the path forward for the 2020-21 school year through an intensive planning process that the district is calling the Three R’s – “Respond, Reimagine, Reopen.”

“We are planning for every potential scenario so we can be prepared for the changing conditions of this pandemic,” said Superintendent Dr. Rodney E. Watson. “It would be the best-case scenario if we’re able to reopen in August with minimum need for social distancing, but we’re also formulating contingencies for other situations.”

Specifically, teams are looking at four different scenarios: Schools open with minimum need for social distancing; schools open with significant need for social distancing; schools open with rolling closures and significant need for social distancing; schools do not reopen and remote learning continues.

As part of the planning work, the district will send out a survey next week asking for parent and staff feedback on proposals being brought forward by a number of district planning teams. These planning teams have been established in the areas of class configurations, school schedules, instruction, student supports, instructional technology, staffing, professional development, family supports, child nutrition, transportation and facilities.

“When we survey our families next week, the responses will help inform the recommendations, which we plan to bring to our Board of Trustees on June 30,” Watson said. “This is a short timeline, but we know there is urgency for our families, students and staff to have a clearer understanding of the future.”

Although some area districts have already sent out surveys to their families, Spring ISD has chosen to wait until the TEA provides additional guidance on reopening schools, so that the options presented align with state recommendations and mandates.

In the meantime, the planning teams are researching the best ways to support educating all students, whether in person, remotely or a combination of both. “We’ve been looking at all possibilities for schedules because we know school schedules are foundational for everything else,” said Spring High School Principal Diaka Melendez, who has been serving as a team lead. “At the end of the day, we want to know that we’ve considered all options so that we bring a recommendation that makes sense for our families and is doable within our current budget environment.”

Other principals are serving as team leads for other committees, including instruction. “I’m glad to be part of this process,” said McNabb Elementary Principal Melissa Warford. “This is an opportunity to really think about ways to transform traditional instructional models into a system that is even more responsive to the needs of our students and families.”

By involving principals heavily in the planning process, Watson said the goal is to keep the focus on students and develop recommendations that prioritize their health, safety and academic needs.

“I am committed to continue offering remote learning at all grade levels for our Spring ISD families if TEA allows that option,” he said. “I am also committed to providing the safest possible school environment as we fulfill our mission to educate all students in our care.”

As a District of Innovation, Spring ISD was already able to make adjustments to its 2020-21 instructional calendar, including built-in breaks to mitigate the effects of unexpected closures related to the pandemic. “This flexibility will be key to being able to operate and educate, in spite of changing public-health conditions,” Watson said.

As a reminder, Watson urged all families and staff to take a moment to complete the survey being sent out next week so everyone’s voices are heard. “We want to have an accurate understanding of how our families and staff feel about the path forward,” he said.