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Huntsville superintendent praises work of staff during COVID-19 outbreak
Joseph Brown/ The ItemHuntsville ISD superintendent Dr. Scott Sheppard addresses the crowd of teachers during the district convocation on Thursday at the Huntsville High School Commons.

Huntsville ISD officials unveiled a fall reopening plan Tuesday, giving parents three different options for the 2020-21 school year.

Some students will return to campus with traditional face-to-face instruction, while some will attend a daily online school or a flexible online model.

The result would be fewer students in a school building on a given day, creating the elbow room officials say would be needed for social distancing in classrooms and cafeterias and on buses.

“Governor (Greg) Abbott has stated that Texas students will return to school this fall and we know this raises many questions and concerns for parents as you begin to think about what school may look like for your child in August,” Huntsville ISD superintendent Scott Sheppard said. “While we await answers and guidance from the Texas Education Agency, our district team has been very busy prioritizing student safety by creating options for HISD students.”

Under the district’s plan, parents will be able to choose the model of instruction that best suits each child’s individual needs and family situation. The district plans to offer all three models simultaneously.

The district’s models include:

• Traditional Instruction: In-person face-to-face instruction in a traditional school setting with new health protocols such as social distancing, smaller class sizes, fewer large group interactions during the school day, face coverings as appropriate, etc. Officials say that this model is best suited for students needing daily, face-to-face instruction from teachers to succeed in school and parents who are unable to supervise or care for children during the school day.

• Structured Online: Daily online school following a set schedule for each course/subject with students logging in at specific times every school day, during traditional school hours. Instruction will be synced to the traditional instruction model with lessons and assignments following the exact same schedule as face-to-face students. This model is only available to students in grade 3-12, per state regulations. This model is best suited for students needing daily scheduled instruction to succeed in school and for parents wishing to limit exposure due to health concerns, who are also able to provide supervision in home for younger children during the school day.

• Unstructured/Flexible Online: Daily online school with a flexible schedule featuring self-paced online courses with intermittent teacher instruction. This model is suitable for students with an ability to succeed in a less structured remote learning environment. More parental involvement will be required, especially for younger students. Parents wishing to limit exposure due to health concerns but unable to choose the online-only model may find this model suitable, especially because of the flexible schedule, which gives working parents an opportunity to help students in the evenings. This model is available to students in all grade levels.

“With all models, curriculum is being adjusted to address lost instructional time from last spring to help fill learning gaps,” Sheppard added. “All models also utilize Google Classroom, allowing easier transitions between models should the need arise; however, online learning for students will be very different from the remote instruction experienced in the spring.”

Reliable technology, daily attendance, along with engagement/progress monitoring will be required for each online model. Parent training opportunities will also be scheduled for those who choose online learning. This district is also working on ways to provide technology to students in need prior to the start of the year and significant work is being done to make the flexible option a strong option for our younger students given the state’s decision to only allow one online option for pre-kindergarten through second grade.

“As health and safety remains our priority, protocols will be in place for all in-person interaction and face-to-face instruction to help reduce the risks,” Sheppard said. “We want parents to know we will make every reasonable effort to protect students and staff as we follow the recommended safety guidelines, including: smaller classes, social distancing, frequent cleaning and disinfecting, increased hand-washing and sanitizing stations, modified breakfast and lunch plans, controlling student movement/class transitions and more.”

Parents will be able to select their desired model soon after the July 4 weekend, as part of the back to school online student registration process. More details about each model will be included in that process.

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