The start of the 2020-2021 school year will be like no other. As every aspect of life has been impacted by COVID-19, one of the most consistent – education – has been turned upside down. After finishing the 2019-2020 school year at home, Bryan ISD is ready to welcome students back into the classroom, but only if the family is comfortable with that choice. In fact, the school district that prides itself on offering the most academic choices for students is also committed to offering an excellent learning environment for all students during COVID-19, whether that learning happens on-campus, at-home, or in a hybrid form for students in grades 7-12.
Anchoring this new way of learning is the Bryan ISD Return to Learn Plan. The 45-page document covers every aspect of learning at-home, on-campus, or in the hybrid model so parents and students can make the best decisions for their families.
“40 different teams focused on specific areas of the plan. Teams were comprised of administrators, teachers, instructional coaches, counselors, and many more,” said Christina Richardson, Bryan ISD Director of Advanced Academics, one of the leads on developing the plan.
With constantly changing information and regulations being presented by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), Governor Abbott, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), and Attorney General Ken Paxton, balanced with the parents need to know to make an informed decision, the plan came together in just a couple of weeks.
“When you add it all up, it represents hundreds of hours total of research, collaboration, input, and editing, said Christian Rauch, an assistant principal at Bryan ISD’s Rayburn Intermediate School and another lead on the Return to Learn Plan. “And the plan is a working draft, so as we receive new information we’re adding it in, making updates, and keeping our parents informed.”
The topics are extensive. Much of the information for on-campus learning focuses on health safety, with mask requirements, mandated social distancing, limited student movement in the halls, no assemblies, and even major changes to how students receive their lunch with social distancing in line and all of the food placed on the tray before it’s handed to the student.
“Teams studied documents from TEA, DSHS, and CDC to make recommendations,” Richardson said. “Our goal was to provide families and staff information on the district priority of safety and wellbeing, and quality education options for students.”
To that end, the plan is also very detailed about the learning at-home experience. Students will be required to log in daily and complete lessons. They will work online in real-time with their teachers and fellow students through the learning management system Schoology, launched by Bryan ISD last spring. For students who are not able to log-on at the specified class time, they will still have the opportunity to review the lesson and complete the assignments, but they must turn their work in by 11:59 p.m. to be counted as “present” for that day. Per TEA guidelines, attendance will be taken just as if the student was on-campus.
“It’s important for parents to understand that whether learning on-campus or at-home, their students are expected to be ‘in school’ every day,” said Dr. Barbara Ybarra, associate superintendent for teaching and learning. “This will be different than last Spring when students turned in assignments weekly. We’ve had time to learn from that experience, solidify our plan, and create an at-home learning environment that will best replicate the experience of learning on-campus because we know the best learning environment is one where the students are interacting in a classroom setting with a highly-qualified, certified Bryan ISD teacher.”
While parents have chosen for their students to learn on-campus or at-home, the school district knows the situation with COVID-19 is rapidly changing. So, the best option for a family right now may not be the best option later in the fall. For that reason, Bryan ISD parents can change their learning preference every six weeks, and the Return to Learn plan coupled with their learning experience can guide that decision.
“The plan continues to be updated as we receive more questions from parents, staff, and the community,” Richardson said. “As TEA information changes or we receive program updates the plan and frequently asked questions are updated as well. With every decision, Bryan ISD will put children first, and in doing that make the health safety of our students and staff our top priority”
And, keep everyone on the same page through the Return to Learn Plan.
“I would say it’s our guidebook to keep everyone aligned and safe with the most up-to-date information the district has to offer,” Rauch said. “It’s about how we can best care for students, staff, and families in this critical time.”
So, while the start of the school year will be different than any other, one thing will remain the same: whether on-campus or at-home, Bryan ISD teachers, staff, and administrators will be excited to welcome back their students and get back to learning.