HPISD Officials Talk Possible Scenarios For Fall, Student Engagement

There are many unknowns about what fall will look like for school districts, but Highland Park ISD is preparing for a variety of potential scenarios.

“One would be pie in the sky and that would be a brick and mortar reopening and everything similar to the way that it was…a second possibility is that we are 100% remote learning, we’re 100% online…we have to plan as if we were going to be 100% remote. Personally, do I think that’s going to happen? My crystal ball says probably not, but we’ve got to be ready in case. The third track that we’ve got to be planning for is some kind of a brick and mortar opening that’s a hybrid that has restrictions that are imposed upon us by various governmental entities for the health and safety of our kids and of our community,” Superintendent Tom Trigg said. “A fourth track would be what if we’re allowed to come back brick and mortar, some kind of restrictions, but then we have either a staff member, a student, several staff members, several students, whatever, that actually contract COVID-19, does that mean that building’s going to need to shut down for maybe 14 days or 21 days?” 

Trigg added that the district likely won’t receive further state guidance for the 2021 school year until later this month or early in June.

Boone Elementary Principal Amanda Reyes provided an update about the plans for the district’s fifth elementary school. 

“I’m opening this school from my dining room. We’re making it happen, one way or the other,” Reyes joked.

The district revealed the new school’s logo May 5. 

Trigg acknowledged that preparing for the opening of the new school has been ‘doubly challenging’ during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Campus administrators also discussed the levels of engagement they’ve seen from students during the remote learning period.

Katie Mottram, an assistant principal at Highland Park High School, said 99.96% of students are interacting with lessons during the remote learning period as of May 4.

“Electives are the greatest concern with that right now,” HPHS principal Walter Kelly added.

Mottram and other campus administrators added they’ve been keeping in contact with students and families as needed to keep students engaged.

HPISD trustee Tom Sharpe said he hopes to see increased connection between teachers and students during the remote learning period.

“I’m most concerned about that at the elementary, least concerned at the high school, and… middle and intermediate’s kind of in between, but I would hope there’d be an increasing level and quantity and number of touch points between especially elementary school students and teachers throughout the week – at least opportunities for that,” Sharpe said.

Armstrong Elementary Principal Betsy Cummins said the need for student-teacher interaction during office hours is different by grade levels at the elementary level.

“So the way we’ve talked to staff about that is that they can make those changes based on the needs of the kids, which is what we would do in the classroom,” Cummins said. “So, the number of minutes may vary by grade level, but there’s many, many opportunities.”

Trigg also discussed finances.

“Really ‘21-22 may be the most difficult year coming up,” 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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