The 2020-2021 school year will be different because of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether Highland Park ISD families choose virtual or on-campus instruction.
The district announced Aug. 4 plans to begin using emergency remote learning starting Aug. 20, and resume on-campus instruction Sept. 8.
“Based upon all the feedback and input that I’ve received, I believe what’s in the best interest of our entire community, particularly our students and our staff, is that we start with our emergency closure schedule. We have said since the beginning of our planning the school year more than two months ago that our top priority is (the) health and safety of our students, staff, parents, and community,” Superintendent Dr. Tom Trigg said during a work session.
Trigg added that remote instruction, as well as special education services will be more robust than they were in the spring.
The same week, Highland Park High School announced plans to utilize a hybrid model of instruction when students return to the building Sept. 8.
Specifically, the high school outlined in a newsletter sent to parents a plan in which half of the students who chose in-person instruction would be on campus at one time each school day and would alternate days on campus.
“When students are not in attendance, they will still follow their regular brick and mortar schedule but log in to follow along virtually,” the newsletter read.
Students will reportedly be split according to the alphabet to take into consideration families with multiple students. There will still be full-time remote instruction for students who choose that option.
“We believe the hybrid model captures the best of both worlds by allowing us to offer in-person learning while maximizing social distancing. We think it is critical for our students to be able to interact with their teachers and classmates while at the same reducing class-sizes,” the newsletter read.
The Texas Education Agency’s latest guidance allows high schools to utilize a hybrid model after on-campus instruction resumes.
New Highland Park High School principal Jeremy Gilbert also detailed in a video posted to the district’s YouTube channel measures including Plexiglass partitions at each table as a barrier between students while they’re eating lunch, allowing juniors and seniors to go home for lunch, thus reducing the number of students in the cafeteria, and providing students the option to pre-order their meals. Campus administrators said in a video that Plexiglass partitions will likewise be used in cafeterias at the elementary level, students will have assigned seats, those buying their lunch at school will place their order in their classroom each day, and families will manage lunch accounts online. Highland Park Middle School principal Christopher Miller said in a video that the middle school will also utilize the gym and auditorium for lunch for social distancing.
Gilbert said as part of the emergency closure schedule, which the district will start the school year on, high school students will be required to check in virtually for class periods during the day, and the school day will include both synchronous, or real-time, live instruction between teachers and students, and asynchronous class periods.
Miller said the middle school will also follow a class-period-based schedule whether families opt for in-person or virtual learning.