HPISD Board OKs Continued Payment to Employees, Outlines Online Learning Plan

The Highland Park ISD Board of Trustees approved resolutions authorizing continued wage payment to all regular employees during the indefinite school closure and additional leave for district employees who are asked not to work amid COVID-19 concerns who have exhausted available state, local, and vacation leave days.

The resolution authorized the additional leave for employees asked not to report for a maximum of two weeks, unless the board approves additional leave.

“Further, that if we have non-exempt employees, that would be hourly employees, that are called in to work on an HPISD premise during this school closure that they would be paid at a premium rate (set at time and a half),” Superintendent Tom Trigg said.

Trigg said he’s been in contact with officials with the town of Highland Park, the city of University Park, and other superintendents from the north Dallas area amid the school closures meant to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“We really do not know when and if schools might re-open, and we wanted our community to understand from the beginning that there was the potential that this thing would go on and on and would not be simply a one-or two-week closing,” he said.

HPISD assistant superintendent for education services Lisa Wilson outlined the district’s plan for online learning and instructional continuity.

“To provide that highest level of instruction, we will provide activities, but also support for students as they need it,” Wilson said. “It has been an incredible team effort.”

She said the district will use the approved platforms they already have in place, and won’t ask families to download new software or a new app. The platforms include Seesaw for pre-K through second grade students, Google Classroom for third graders through seniors, and other apps that will be available through the My HPISD portal. The Connect Highland Park webpage will be a one-stop shop for families to find resources, frequently-asked questions, and more. That goes live March 26.

“We are going to provide lessons that are specifically designed for our students. Our teachers have just been outstanding to begin to think about how they can provide those great activities for kids that provide a balance between online activities and offline activities. We don’t want kids staring at a screen for seven hours a day,” Wilson said. “We also will offer enrichment opportunities.”

She said counselors will also be available online to provide emotional and academic support, nurses will be available to answer questions, and the district’s technology team will be available to help families if needed. The district’s professional learning will also be online.

Wilson also said families who requested devices for online learning are expected to receive an email with details about when and where to pick the devices up.

She said the district will monitor and adjust the plan as needed.

He said the district will be following Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins’ shelter-in-place order in determining when schools might re-open.

Trigg added, however, that as of March 24, the county order doesn’t affect construction of school facilities.

“It’s not all rosy in that the rain obviously has been having an impact on us,” he said.

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at rachel.snyder@peoplenewspapers.com

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