Administrators Outline The 2 Back To School Learning Options For SSISD Students In 2020-21 School Year

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Parents Need To Complete Online Registration Soon, Will Be Asked To Select Full Time On-Campus Or Virtual Academy Schooling

One of the big questions for educators and families has been what to expect for the 2020-2021 school year, which is still scheduled to begin on Aug. 18 for Sulphur Springs Independent School District students, with staff returning for professional development days on Aug. 6. SSISD Director of Curriculum Lisa Robinson and Superintendent Michael Lamb Monday evening discussed the 2 learning options available for SSISD students, but noted portions of the plans depend on enrollment, COVID-19 and related state requirements.

Basics For Fall 2020

SSISD Superintendent Michael Lamb, socially distanced from school board member Craig Roberts, outlines 2020-2021 back to school plans for SSISD.

First, the SSISD administrators noted, parents need to complete the online Skyward registration process for their students as soon as possible. Any parents who has lost their login information, gotten locked out of or need assistance in completing the Skyward registration can call Mikki Daniel at 903-885-2153, ext. 1151, starting next week.

Then, starting July 23, parents will receive educational commitment forms. They will be asked to commit to either the full time on-campus program or the SSISD virtual academy. The selection will need to be made no later than 8 a.m. Aug. 4. This information will be used to prepare schedules, finalize staffing decisions and make teacher assignments.

All options are offered based on current state and federal guidelines and is subject to change. Districts too are asked to budget in up to 30 make up days in the event schools are required to temporarily close again as they did in the spring due to spread of COVID-19, other illnesses, whether or other unforeseeable events. If these types of closures occur, they will be made up on currently scheduled professional development days and/or in June if necessary.

Information about both kinds of learning programs, as well as a FAQ for are available on the SSISD website, ssisd.net, by clicking on the 2020-21 Back to School link on the main page.

Each family is asked to consider the full scope of both options and make the best choice for their students. However, be aware, if the state shuts down schools again, the district is working on a plan for all students to receive virtual instruction; there will be no strictly paper instruction as there was with distance learning in the spring.

Currently, school is moving forward as if athletics and other UIL activities will be held. Summer strength and conditioning sessions and band practices are under way according to the latest guidelines released by UIL on July 8. UIL has yet to rule regarding fall activities, Lamb noted.

Lamb said based on the online surveys that have been voluntarily completed by families so far regarding preferences for the upcoming school year indicate about 20 percent of families want Virtual Academy for their students. If that turns out to be the case, that would providing additional room for distancing between desks and tables in regular classrooms for on-campus learning.

That’s why parents completing the learning program commitment form between July 23 and 8 a.m. Aug. 4 is important. It will allow the district to plan for space, staffing and instructional needs for all campuses and learning options.

Full Time On-Campus Learning

The second of the back to school learning options for SSISD is a Virtual Academy. This will be much like classes in the past, with additional safety measures observed. Students will generally follow the same schedule they would have normally followed.

This will be much like classes in the past, with additional safety measures observed. Students will generally follow the same schedule they would have normally followed.

SSISD will follow the governor’s executive order requiring face masks or coverings when it is not feasible to maintain 6 feet of social distancing from others. Currently, masks must be worn by secondary students and any student age 10 and older. Outside of an executive order from the governor or a requirement from the Texas Education Agency, SSISD will not require face masks.

The district has masks that will be available, even if that order is loosened or rescinded. Students and staff will be permitted to wear face masks if they choose, even if not required.

Hand sanitizer will be readily available and thorough hand washing will be practiced.

Lamb also noted that while state school guidelines initially indicated class sizes might have to be reduce to 10 or less with students not going to lunch.

The current plan includes a regular instructional schedule with face-to face learning during regular school hours, Monday through Friday. Elementary students will participate in specials such as music, PE, and recess as normal. Secondary students in grades 6-12 will follow their class schedules as normal and transition to different classrooms for instruction.

Desks or tables will be socially distanced as much as instructionally possible. Class sizes will adhere to state guidelines and will be determined by the number of students who choose to participate in on-campus learning.

Due to updated medical advisement to Texas Education Agency, SSISD will not be required to check students’ temperatures upon arrival at school. Parents are asked to screen their students for symptoms of illness, particularly COVID-19 and staff members will self screen. Teachers will monitor students and refer them to the nurse if symptoms are present.

Per public health guidance from the Texas Education Agency, in the case of an individual who is diagnosed with COVID-19, the individual may return to school when all three of the following criteria are met:

  • At least three days have passed since recovery (resolution of fever without medication);
  • The individual has improvement in symptoms;
  • At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

SSISD Schools will identify, clear, and thoroughly clean any areas used by an individual who is discovered to be COVID-19 positive. The district has special spray machines to help with cleaning and sanitizing procedures.

Part of specialized cleaning systems

Students or staff who test positive for COVID-19 will be sent home to recover. When notification of a possible exposure occurs, in coordination with local health authorities, SSISD will conduct contact tracing. Based on the results, a determination will be made as to which students meet the criteria for “close contact exposure” and must be quarantined. If students are required to temporarily quarantine, services will be provided through the Virtual Learning Academy.

Students who experience short term absences from school may participate in virtual instruction for the duration of their absence.

Complete and detailed health and safety plans for SSISD will be communicated publicly at least 1 week prior to the start of on-campus instruction.

The district will have transportation services for students attending full time in-person classes on campus, but for social distancing purposes, parents/guardians who can are encouraged to bring their children to and pick them up from school.

SSISD 2020-2021 on-campus instruction plan

Virtual Academy

The virtual academy offered for SSISD students for 2020-21 school year will be very different from the distance learning program students participated in this spring. The distance learning program was a temporary plan devised due to the unanticipated closure of in-person classes due to COVID-19. Virtual Academy will be a year-long school program that follows the rigorous and comprehensive state curriculum.

Families will need to establish a set schedule and productive learning environment. Students will be required to attend Monday-Friday and must engage in specified instructional activities and show adequate daily progress to be counted “present” for the day, Robinson noted.

Students will require access to the Internet during the regular school week, as instruction will be primarily recorded video instruction and independent learning activities, with some live video conferencing with teachers in large and small group and individual settings as needed, according to a regular schedule through the week.

Pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students will access their courses using SeeSaw while grads 6-12 will access courses through Microsoft Teams. Resources and support will be offered to families.

While Virtual Academy students will follow the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills curriculum and follow the sequencing and pacing of in-person instruction, instruction will not be the same as tradition on -campus instruction. It will better fit virtual students’ more independent learning. Accommodations and support services will be provided virtually when possible, but some specialized services may only be available on-campus.

Courses will be graded using the same grading policies as on-campus. High school credits earned virtually will be counted in the student’s GPA calculation and class rank outlined in the SSISD grading policy. Students will also still need 90 percent attendance for credit.

Students will be provided with a list of courses available through the Virtual Academy.

Core courses will be offered, as will dual credit and AP courses. Students who are planning to take a dual credit course must enroll through Paris Junior College; they should contact their SSHS counselor for questions.

Some electives, specifically some high school courses, may not be available due to the hands-on nature of the course work. Arrangements can be made for Virtual Academy students to come to campus for specific course work that cannot be completed at home, but transportation will not be provided for these exceptions.

Virtual Academy students will be allowed to participate in athletics, band, other extracurricular and UIL activities that may be offered on campus, provided the students satisfy UIL requirements, are enrolled in the
applicable course, and able to attend on-campus practices and competitions. SSISD will not provide transportation to the campus for Virtual Academy students to participate in these activities.

Parents and students of Virtual Academy will also be able to contact a school counselor or nurse by phone or e-mail during school hours if needed.

SSISD 2020-2021 Virtual Academy plan

Author: Faith Huffman

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