Houston seniors will officially engage in a virtual graduation ceremony on June 14. But what of the thousands of returning students who are in limbo due to COVID-19 concerns? The Houston Independent School District has presented a course of options for next year’s scholastic calendar, including online-only instruction.
In a statement, the district said it was mulling over “all options” for 2020-2021. “The district will be prepared to continue educating all students virtually through distance learning, if necessary,” reads the statement.
“Additionally, if COVID-19 conditions allow and guidance from local, state, and federal health officials is provided, the district will be prepared to welcome students back to campuses or operate in a hybrid model, with both distance and in-person learning occurring simultaneously.”
At a press conference on Friday, May 15, HISD interim superintendent Grenita Lathan said that year-round classes are being considered, as well as classes being extended to 30 minutes each day. Lathan also outlined recommendations to waive minimal attendance for class credit. Such changes to the academic calendar would need to be approved by the HISD Board of Trustees.
Since March, 95 percent of the 240,000 HISD students have been contacted by the district, as CultureMap news partner ABC13 reports. When schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, district staff deployed wireless hotspots and 14,000 laptop computers to students. The district will deploy 25,000 more laptops for students, Lathan said.
HISD also noted in a statement that its options regarding school year start date are limited because it has not adopted the District of Innovation or Year-Round System designation under state law under the Texas Education Agency. The agency offered three options for the future: move to a year-long model, add 30 days to a traditional 180-day calendar, or spread the school year out with intermittent breaks.
While the district adapts to this new normal going forward, Lathan added that seniors weighed highly on her mind. Holding a virtual ceremony for graduating students was one of the hardest decisions of Lathan’s career, she said. “I determined it was not feasible to hold 45 graduation ceremonies and to put our families at risk.”