A special meeting of Sulphur Springs ISD Board of Trustees has been called for 6 p.m. July 23, with only two items on the agenda. The trustees will be asked to consider amending the 2020-2021 SSISD calendar and consider any personnel items presented since their last meeting.
Superintendent Michael Lamb on July 13 presented a working outline of the district’s plans to reopen school, with in-person classes or a Virtual Academy in families uncomfortable sending students to campus for classes due to COVID-19 concerns.
He also explained that the district will be required to adjust the calendar to incorporate up to a month of makeup days, should school have to be cancelled for an extended period of time due to illness, such as a surge in COVID-19 cases among students and staff, or at the order of state officials as was the case this spring. The district also is working on a plan which would allow all instruction to be switched to virtual learning should schools have to close to in-person classes.
Lamb said the calendar would go back to the committee for review. However, as of the regular July board meeting, administrators and the calendar committee planned to designate days on the calendar approved earlier this year as staff work days as well as most of June as make-up days. The final calendar recommendation is scheduled to be presented to the school board for approval at the special July 23 meeting.
Addition COVID-19 related action at the July 13 meeting includes approval of a waiver to be sent to Texas Education Agency regarding at-risk passing notification.
Essentially, Lamb explained, the district is required to provide early notification to parents or guardians of students identified in a preceding grade to be at risk of failure on the first administration of the assessment required for grade advancement the next year. However, because of the way the spring semester ended, with no STAAR test for grade 5 and 8, a waiver is needed. Parents of students entering fifth and eighth grades who have been identified as at risk of failing the STAAR will be notified at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year instead of the end of the 2020 school year.
An additional waiver SSISD will be applying to Texas Education Agency for is a reading diagnostic instrument waiver. This waiver would exempt the district from provisions of Texas Education Code that require districts to use either “TX-KEA” or “mClass Texas Edition” as the beginning-of-year-reading screener for kindergarteners.
The waiver asks TEA to allow SSISD to continue using the TPRI assessment, the same instrument used in the 2019-2020 school year, to screen kindergarteners this year. TPRI not only provides an incredible amount of useful data, but also is the program district teachers know and are familiar with, according to SSISD Curriculum Director Lisa Robinson. District administrators received board approval to submit the waivers to TEA at the July 13 meeting The district could switch to TX-KEA the following year.
Sulphur Springs ISD Board of Trustees also during the July 23 meeting are expected to enter into executive session to discuss any personnel matters presented for discussion or approval since the July 13 meeting.
Administrators have been working hard this summer to try to fill remaining openings on campuses across the district. Trustees on July 13 agreed to renew SSISD’s District of Innovation plan which provides a little more flexibility in hiring of individuals based on field experience. This plan includes an option to explore options to potentially offer better group health insurance benefits.
Parents’/guardians’ instructional decision for their students, in-person at school or Virtual Academy at-home online, will impact district staffing needs as well. To gauge student enrollment this year, parents were asked to complete on online registration for their students this summer.
Starting today (July 23), parents should begin receiving educational commitment forms for their SSISD students 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.
The July 23 meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the board room at SSISD Administration Building, 631 Connally St.