East Texas school district leaders and staff have spent the summer absorbing information from their regulating agency, the Texas Education Agency, and implementing plans on how to move forward educating students in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The TEA has recently ordered public schools to re-open in the fall and is requiring districts to offer both in classroom instruction and online or remote instruction options, based on the parent/guardians wishes for their student. The agency is also requiring districts to adhere to Gov. Greg Abbott’s mask requirement for all students over the age of 10-years-old.

East Texas school district leaders this week detailed their specific plans for the upcoming 2020-21 school year, as well as their district’s first day of school for all students.

Marshall ISD

Marshall ISD students return to school on Aug. 13 and those parents who wish to have their students not return to in classroom instruction may enroll their Maverick in virtual learning, Marshall ISD Superintendent Jerry Gibson said.

“The district is offering an online learning opportunity with state aligned curriculum through Edgenuity for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade,” Gibson said. “Frog Street is offered for pre-kindergarten students.”

Online instructions and support will be provided and daily attendance and participation is required at scheduled times, he said. Students choosing this option must have access to computers and internet service and extra-curricular activities are not available through online learning.

Gibson said the state is providing some masks and the district is currently checking on options to provide additional masks for students that must meet the Gov. Abbott’s mask requirement.

Hallsville ISD

Hallsville ISD students will return to school on Aug. 13 and students may choose between in classroom instruction or at home virtual learning, Hallsville ISD Superintendent Jeff Collum said.

“We will have an at home virtual learning platform that parents and students will be able to access,” Collum said. “We are working on finalizing those plans soon. We recently sent out a survey to all parents asking them what their current plans would be and to tell us how many technology devices they currently have at home. It would be very helpful for our parents to return those surveys to us as soon as possible. This information is helping us finalize our at home learning plans for the upcoming school year.”

Collum said the district is planning to provide masks for students required to wear them and students are also encouraged to bring their own from home.

“We plan on adhering to the state required screening, social distancing and mitigation measures as recently described by the Texas Education Agency,” Collum said. “We are still very hopeful that a regular start will occur and that we can all return to normal school operations. However, we are also planning for these other alternative measures as well.”

Harleton ISD

Harleton ISD students will return to school on Aug. 10 and students will choose between traditional in classroom instruction or remote learning options, Harleton ISD Superintendent Jay Ratcliff said.

“We will offer the Asynchronous Instructional Model to students that will be receiving Remote Instruction,” Ratcliff said. “We will use a variety of online platforms, depending upon the grade level. The Remote Instruction for 2020-21 will not be anything like the spring 2020 Remote Instruction, as there are many more documentation and progress monitoring steps to be made each day, by every child in Remote Instruction.”

Ratcliff said attendance must be taken daily for each student in remote learning and the state’s 90 percent attendance rule will be in enforced.

“All grades earned by students in Remote Instruction settings will be counted and taken the same as if they were in In-Person Instruction on campus,” he said. “We will send out a survey to our parents next week, explaining the TEA Reopening Guidelines, as well as measuring how many of our parents/guardians will choose Remote Instruction for their student(s), if any.”

Ratcliff said students choosing remote learning must have reliable internet service.

Students required to wear masks are encouraged to bring their own masks from home.

“We will use the TEA Public Health Guidance Document to decipher when and how often the masks must be worn, by both students and staff,” Ratcliff said. “Health and safety is our top priority. We will ask that parents/guardians provide masks for their student(s), so that the mask(s) can be disinfected and/or sanitized daily, at home.”

Jefferson ISD

Jefferson ISD students will return to school on Aug. 17 and Jefferson ISD Superintendent Rob Barnwell said his administration is still currently ironing out plans for the 2020-21 school year as the district awaits the results from a recent survey sent out to parents/guardians.

“We are still working on our remote learning details along with our back to school protocols,” Barnwell said. “We have sent out a survey to help us identify those who will be choosing remote instruction as the option for their students. We’ve gotten about a 60 percent response rate from the survey so far, so we will be reaching out to the ones who have not responded by calling them.

Barnwell said his district is exempt from Gov. Abbott’s mask requirements as Marion county does not currently have 20 active cases of the coronavirus.

“It doesn’t apply the same to all counties, depending on the number of active COVID-19 cases in that particular county (20 is the key number),” he said. “But we will be providing masks to our students and staff, as much as feasible.”

Waskom ISD

Waskom ISD students will return to school on Aug. 12 and the district is still planning its safety and instructional outlines for the 2020-21 school year, Waskom ISD Superintendent Rae Ann Patty said.

“Waskom will be following the guidelines set forth by the Texas Education Agency. The top priority for Waskom ISD will be the safety of our students and staff,” Patty said. “Waskom ISD is currently meeting with our stakeholders to ensure our plans will meet their safety and instructional needs.”

Patty said the district will post its detailed plans for the 2020-21 school year on its website at https://www.waskomisd.net/ as soon as they are finalized in the coming weeks.

Elysian Fields ISD

Elysian Fields ISD students will return to school on Aug. 10 and will have the choice between traditional in classroom learning or remote learning from home, Elysian Fields ISD Assistant Superintendent Monica Simmons said.

“Elysian Fields ISD’s main priorities are to ensure our students and staff are safe and to provide our students with a solid education,” Simmons said. “We are planning to allow parents two options: face to face (traditional) instruction and remote (at home) instruction. We are releasing a survey to parents to gather information about the method of instruction they are most comfortable with their child receiving. Parents may access the survey on the district website or on the district Facebook page. If parents do not have access to the internet, they may stop by the Elysian Fields ISD Administration building and pick up a survey.”

The district will provide masks for students required to wear them, but said parents may also send a mask with their child.

Karnack ISD

Karnack ISD students will return to school on Aug. 17 and will offer both in classroom and remote instruction, Karnack ISD Superintendent Amy Dickson said.

“Karnack ISD will be following state safety guidelines and continuing to do what is best and what works best for our students,” Dickson said. “Like everyone else, we will provide both in person and remote instruction. Our team is currently working through our plans to ensure that high academic standards are met in both settings, while trying to be realistic and use common sense with our approach. Ultimately, we need to be very clear with our families that remote instruction will not look exactly as it did in the spring. There will be more structure, and complete accountability. This is not to punish families that choose to stay home for safety. This is to ensure that state attendance and accountability laws are followed.”

Dickson said the district is working on ensuring all students have access to internet service from home.

“We are blessed to already have small class sizes and 1:1 technology,” she said. “We are working on plans to get internet in to all of our homes. This year will be a challenge like none before, but I believe we will do what we always do- more with less. As for specifics, our goal is to unveil our remote instructional plan as soon as possible. However, it is difficult to do more than generalize at this time because directions are still coming daily from TEA. We sincerely appreciate the patience and understanding from parents and community as each district works through these processes. As soon as I can release a plan that meets state mandates, while matching the needs of Karnack ISD, it will be public.”